Scientists “reactivate” a 30,000 year old virus, chaos does not ensue…yet.
A collaborative research team of French and Russian scientists recently discovered a 30,000 year old virus locked away in Siberian ice. Then just to scare the pants off science fiction fans, they “woke up” the virus, reactivating it like it had just replicated yesterday.
Here’s the good news: the virus, named Pithovirus sibericum, seeks out amoebas. People aren’t amoebas, so we’re fine. The virus poses no risk to humans or animals.
However, here’s the problem: according Time, the researchers who revived the virus say “60 percent of its gene content did not resemble anything on earth.” Knowing that - and given we still have trouble with some viruses our doctors literally see every day - we can logically assume that if this was an ancient virus that could impact humans, we’d likely be unsure of how protect ourselves against its wrath.
Furthermore, taking a big picture view, to assume Pithovirus is a lone survivor in the Siberian permafrost would be ridiculous.
"This is an indication that viruses pathogenic for humans or animals might also be preserved in old permafrost layers," one of the study’s coauthors told CNN. “Including some that have caused planet-wide epidemics in the past.”