‘Giant’ Virus To Be Reanimated By Scientists

Courtesy of PNAS

Electron microscope view of the 30,000 year-old prehistoric virus (PNAS)

‘Giant’ Virus To Be Reanimated By Scientists

French researchers have announced that they will be reanimating a 30,000-year-old prehistoric virus found in the frozen wilderness of the Siberian tundra.  According to their published paper, “Our finding suggests that prehistory ‘live’ viruses are not a rare occurrence.”

Mollivirus sibericum, translated to “soft virus from Siberia”, is the 4th ‘giant virus’ discovered this century while the same team of scientists recently discovered another one of these, Pithovirus sibericum, last year; both viruses being isolated from the same sample of permafrost. They are being called ‘giant viruses’ because they’re visible by light microscopy, with lengths greater than half a micron – a thousandth of a millimeter.

The researchers claim that unlike the beginning of a zombie apocalypse, or the movie Contagion, they will only revive the virus if they can be certain it’s not a threat to animals or humans.

Now I know what you’re thinking: when it comes to unknown viruses, what assurances can be given without extensive testing on said animals and humans?  The researchers further state, in these-are-not-the-droids-you-are-looking-for-style topic shifts, that we shouldn’t fear the possibilities stemming from intentionally infecting an amoeba in a controlled laboratory setting, but rather, “the fact that two different viruses retain their infectivity in prehistorical permafrost layers are of more concern in the context of global warming.”

Now the eyes roll.

Courtesy of NASA

Global Rise in Temperatures (NASA)

With permafrost thawing as the world gets hotter – and mining companies looking to explore new, icy territories to find hidden mineral deposits underground – the risks of accidentally uncovering a prehistoric pathogen are all too real.  “A few viral particles that are still infectious may be enough, in the presence of a vulnerable host, to revive potentially pathogenic viruses,” said Jean-Michel Claverie, one of the researchers.  “If we are not careful, and we industrialize these areas without putting safeguards in place, we run the risk of one day waking up viruses, such as small pox, that we thought were eradicated.”

Mmmm, I love the smell of mankind destroying itself in the morning.

Edward Holmes, a professor of infectious diseases and biosecurity at the University of Sydney, was cautious of the findings.  “The oldest pathogen [we have identified] is plague bacterium going back 1500 years – and that was was very degraded.  Here you have an intact virus going back 30,000 years so it would have to have been absolutely, instantaneously frozen and [then experience] no thawing or degradation.  That’s a tough call for me…  I’d like the age to be independently verified.”  Further more, speaking with Fairfax Media, he had this to say: “We are more at risk from the standard microbiological fauna that floats around [us].”

What are your thoughts?  Are we kick-starting a viral apocalypse?  Are we tampering with forces beyond our control?  Join the conversation: comment, share on Facebook, and hit us up on Twitter with the hashtag #DMTalk.

W D King


Walter king is a sushi enthusiast. A cat lover. A star gazer. An ex-skateboarder, with the destroyed knees to prove it. A local boy raised in Hawaii. He spent much of his youth listening to art bell, infecting his brain with all matter of gray area thought provoking ideas like time travel, collective consciousness, and who can forget: Bigfoot. He's a loving husband and first time father. A movie junkie. A cliff diving, mud slinging, midday dreamer. He also kind of dabbles in indie film production, music production, and photography. He is survived by his unflinching whit and dry sense of humor.

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1 Response

  1. David says:

    Oh For Frak’s sake, global warming fear-mongering again. That’s what this is all about. As people gradually realise the science all supports the CAGW skeptics and that it’s all a scam to economically regulate and control every aspect of our lives via the harmless and beneficial gas CO2 they’re resorting to more and more ridiculous, obscure and desperate measures to scare the public into accepting their criminal economic measures that even were CAGW true would do little to change the climate even if we shut down all civilisation.

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