As if there weren’t enough problems with thawing tundra. A virus of unprecedented size has been isolated from Russian permafrost 30,000 years old and reactivated.
Dubbed a pithovirus after the Greek pithos, meaning a large earthenware jar like an amphora, the virus infects amoebas but does not appear to harm human or mouse cells.
Even so, now that this virus has been revived from the permafrost, so too could potentially harmful pathogens, possibly including viruses humans have never encountered before, the researchers say.
“There’s good reason to think there could be pathogenic viruses in there too,” says Chantal Abergel of Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France, and co-leader of the team that discovered the virus.
“Thirty percent of the world’s oil reserves are thought to be hidden under the permafrost, along with gold and other key minerals, so exploration is bound to increase,” says Jean-Michel Claverie, co-leader of…
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