A team led by Jean-Michel Claverie and Chantal Abergel of Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France, made the discovery of the previously unknown virus, which has been dubbed Pithovirus sibericum and can be revived in the lab. Amazingly, even after more than 30,000 years embedded in ancient permafrost, when Claverie and Abergel exposed amoebas in their lab to the virus, they found that the virus was still active and quickly infected the host cell. "We use amoeba on purpose as a safe bait for capturing viruses. We then immediately verify that they are not able to infect animal/human cells," stressed the researchers.Their findings are detailed in a new article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ( doi:10.1073/pnas.1320670111).
If long-buried viruses can be unearthed, what else might be capable of coming to the surface? Climate change as well as industrial activities may shake up the ancient ice enough to bring potential pathogens to the surface. "Mining and drilling means ... digging through these ancient layers for the first time in millions of years. If 'viable' [viral particles] are still there, this is a good recipe for disaster," said Claverie and Abergel.But Edward Mocarski, a professor of microbiology at Emory University, says the risk of a virus pathogenic to humans being released from the ice is very small.University of Nebraska's Van Etten agreed that such a situation was unlikely but possible with the right conditions."We are now doing more work to analyze the DNA content of these permafrost layers in a search for the genetic signature of viruses resembling human pathogens," said Claverie and Abergel, who stressed that they are not attempting to "revive" any such pathogenic viruses, but rather hoping to determine the potential danger.
For More Informations:
1. Legendrea, Matthieu; Bartolia, Julia; Shmakovab, Lyubov et al. (2014), "Thirty-thousand-year-old distant relative of giant icosahedral DNA viruses with a pandoravirus morphology", PNAS, doi:10.1073/pnas.1320670111