Scientists from several universities in Europe have thawed 13 viruses that were found in permafrost, a permanently frozen part of Earth, in Siberia, one of the coldest regions on the planet, in Russia.
Study published on the BioRxiv preprint platformIt has not yet been peer-reviewed. In the researchers’ work, they caveat, when reporting that this type of work is important, because “as the climate warms, the perpetual thawing of permafrost releases organic matter frozen for up to a million years.”
The researchers confirm that this organic matter may be from “viruses that have been dormant since prehistoric times.” According to the scientists, the 13 viruses belong to five different classes and have been collected in seven places. Some, for example, came from the droppings of mammoths and the stomachs of Siberian wolves.
By collecting these pathogens, they were introduced into the amoeba culture. All work was done in the laboratory. Despite being frozen for 48,500 years, viruses have multiplied. In other words, it can be contagious.
“We believe our results are with viruses that infect Acanthamoeba [ameba] It can be extrapolated to many other DNA viruses capable of infecting humans or animals. Therefore, it is likely that ancient permafrost (more than 50,000 years old) released these unknown viruses after the ice melted,” the authors write in the study.
According to the researchers, increased global warming and Arctic exploration may increase the melting of prehistoric viruses. “The risks are likely to increase in the context of global warming, when the thawing of permafrost continues to accelerate and more people will live in the Arctic following industrial developments,” the article stated.
There is no risk of contamination
Although the scientists dissolved the viruses, the researchers ensured that there was no risk of any pathogens escaping from the laboratory and infecting humans or animals.
Therefore, the biological risk associated with the revival of prehistoric viruses that infect amoeba is negligible. [Inserí-los em amebas é a] “The best possible protection against accidental infection of laboratory workers or the spread of a terrible virus,” the authors added.
According to the study, some scientists are still searching for prehistoric viruses that could dissolve and infect humans. However, these surveys are conducted in high biosafety centers.
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