15,000-Year-Old Viruses Discovered in Tibetan Glacier

24 Janvier, 2020, 03:26 | Auteur: Therese Cote

While the world is working to control the spread of a deadly corona virus in China, scientists are studying unknown 15,000-year-old viruses, which Live Science says have always been trapped in a glacier on the northwest Tibetan plateau in China.

Back in 2015, an global team of researchers traveled to the Guliya ice cap on the northwestern Tibetan Plateau to study ancient viruses.

Now after intense research and critical examination, they've finally completed and published a report at the online scientific journal, bioRxiv, which details the findings of 28 never-encountered virus groups that could be unleashed on Earth if climate change continues on its present course.

As the media outlet points out, the study of the viruses in question is complicated by the fact that the two ice cores, originally extracted in 1992 and in 2015 respectively, can be easily contaminated by contemporary bacteria, which has actually happened to the cores exterior (though, thankfully, the cores' interior remained pristine).

Now the analysis sections to identify other ancient viruses. In a cold room maintained at -5°C, researchers used a sterilized band to cut a layer of ice, followed by ethanol to melt another layer of ice and then washed with sterile water to remove another layer.

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"The microbes differed significantly across the two ice cores, presumably representing the very different climate conditions at the time of deposition". Hence, scientists employed a new method to study microbes preserved within the ice for ultraclean microbial and viral sampling, according to LiveScience. Found 33 virus group, but five of them were described previously.

"In the worst case, this ice melt could release pathogens into the environment [due to climate change]", wrote the researchers in their study, which was not assessed by experts.

"Melting of glaciers, at a bare minimum leads to loss of microbial and viral archives and in turn can be informative and help in the diagnosis of the planet's old climate regimes, " they scientists said in the research paper.

The more secrets we can glean from these ancient icy behemoths, the better.

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