Scientists at the Ohio State University in the United States have discovered ancient viruses more than ten thousand years old in the glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau in China. According to the researchers, they identified the genetic codes of 33 viruses, four of which were already known, and 28 were completely new, unlike modern ones.
What is known about the find?
In 2015, biologists from the Ohio State University took two cores (rock samples) on the Gulia Glacier in western China. They had layers of ice that accumulate year after year and hold everything that was in the atmosphere at that time. The age of the samples is approximately 15 thousand years.
According to the work published in the publication Microbiome, about half of the viruses remained alive due to freezing. According to scientists, they are adapted to cold conditions and are able to infect cells at low temperatures.
Do viruses pose a danger to humans?
According to scientists, viruses are most likely safe for animals and humans, but they can infect plants. The authors of the study believe that viruses could develop in soil and plants (and not in animals and humans). Scientists also believe that the cold is not terrible for viruses. As one of the study participants stated, professor of Microbiology at the Ohio State University Matthew Sullivan viruses have characteristic features of genes that help them infect cells in very cold conditions.
According to the researchers, most of the viruses returned to life after the ice melted, which suggests that as the glaciers melt, ancient viruses may come to the surface. According to scientists, the study of ancient viruses will allow us to study their evolution and how they reacted to climate change. The results obtained, in particular, will helpresearchers can predict how different biological forms will develop further.
Scientists also note that the detected viruses do not have a common universal gene, so their identification and naming them takes place in several stages. To do this, experts compare sets of genes of new viruses and known ones already entered into databases.