‘Zombie virus’ found after spending over 50,000 years frozen in Siberian permafrost
Several “zombie viruses” that had been dormant in Siberian permafrost for tens of thousands of years, including one that was nearly 50,000 years old, have been brought back to life by scientists.
Scientists examined permafrost samples taken from the Russian province and discovered 13 new viruses.
According to a study led by microbiologist Jean-Marie Alempic of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, one of the viruses had maintained its infectiousness after spending more than 48,500 years in deep permafrost.
The pandoravirus only affects single-cell organisms and shouldn’t be dangerous to people.
According to the study, which has not been peer-reviewed, there has only been a small amount of research into “living” viruses discovered in permafrost.
The scientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research stated that additional research is necessary to determine the potential risks posed by viruses in permafrost when frozen landscapes melt due to climate change.
The study reads: “One quarter of the northern hemisphere is underlain by permanently frozen ground, referred to as permafrost.
“Due to climate warming, irreversibly thawing permafrost is releasing organic matter frozen for up to a million years, most of which decomposes into carbon dioxide and methane, further enhancing the greenhouse effect.
“Part of this organic matter also consists of revived cellular microbes as well as viruses that remained dormant since prehistorical times.”