Frantic French scientists are planning to revive an ancient inactive mega-virus, that has been latent for 30,000 years. They found it in the permafrost of the Russian Arctic.
The scientists, from the French National Center for Scientific Research, claim they will consider every possible precaution while reviving the specimen, satisfying the secure lab requirements.
They issued their study describing their research in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The leader of the researchers’ crew is Jean-Michel Claverie, who operates a laboratory at the French center.
But, let us take you on a ride through history first. In 2004, a group of American scientists activated the virus Spanish Flu. This resulted in the death of millions of people.
The researchers went to Alaska and gathered samples of lung tissue from a woman buried in dry ice.
With those fragments, combined with the autopsy tissue, the U.S scientists shaped the code for the eight genes.
They did the task, at what ABC.net calls a “top-security” laboratory of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.
The French scientists awoke another Siberian virus, noted as Pithovirus Sibericum, in a petri dish in a lab in 2013.
They warned that climate change may rouse serious viruses in regions of the far north, where soil or ice is melting and claim it is better to ‘know the enemy’. They found it near the same field as the previous discovery, which they named Mollivirus sibericum.
This is the fourth prehistoric virus found since 2003.
But, most likely, the most radical feature of the studies from 2013 and 2015 is the case that these Siberian viruses do not look like any other similar virus earlier identified on Earth.
Modern viruses are miniature and have only a few genes. But Pithovirus sibericum and Mollivirus sibericum comprise 500 genes, setting it in a different category of viral giant, a family known as Megaviridae.
“60% of its gene content doesn’t resemble anything on Earth,” said Chantal Abergel, an associate researcher.
Another virus discovered back in 2003, Pandoravirus, has 2,500 genes. In comparison, the HIV virus has only 12, while Influenza A has eight.
The French researchers describe the two viruses as giants. In order for the viruses to fall into the group of giants, they need to be more than a half-micron long – 1/1000th of a millimeter.
Pithovirus sibericum is contagious to amoebas yet doesn’t appear detrimental to human cells, according to the researchers.
They found it in a 100-foot-deep sample of permanent ice-soil from a coastal tundra in Chukotka.
When they publicized the discovery of the first one in 2013, Claverie said: “The revival of viruses that are considered to have been eradicated, such as smallpox, whose replication process is similar to that of Pithovirus, is no longer limited to science fiction. The risk that this scenario could happen in real life has to be viewed realistically.”
Experts anticipate the research of the Siberian permafrost to increase since they believe 30% of the world’s oil reserves, gold deposits and other key minerals are there.
Hence, there is an imminent risk that viruses that humankind never faced before to emerge from the ice.