Scientists have discovered a 30,000-year-old Frankenvirus in the frozen Siberian wastelands. They fear the dangerous virus, known as Mollivirus sibericum, could reanimate as global warming melts the ice and snow, releasing the microscopic pathogens into the air to infect humans.
Discovery News reported on the Frankenvirus, stating that the virus was discovered by French scientists and is the fourth prehistoric virus found since 2003. It is unknown if the virus, Mollivirus sibericum, can cause human or animal disease, but researchers don’t want to wait around and see. Instead, the scientists hope to investigate the makeup of the virus and determine what danger it would pose to current life on Earth. Once they have a handle on the potential for mass infection, the virus will be reanimated for further study in order to create a potential vaccine against it.
The virus is considered to be a giant, which means it is longer than half a micron in size or at least 0.00002 of an inch. Mollivirus sibericum measures in at 0.6 microns in size.
Researcher Jean-Michael Claverie stated that some of the particles they discovered were still considered to be infectious.
“A few viral particles that are still infectious may be enough, in the presence of a vulnerable host, to revive potentially pathogenic viruses.”
Although the virus was found in Siberia’s frozen wastelands, there is a fear that industry could take hold in the areas before global warming has an impact, which could lead to the awakening and spread of the virus, according to Claverie via Yahoo News.
“If we are not careful, and we industrialise 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.”
Researchers are astounded by the prehistoric viruses they have found over the last 12 years. Each has been much larger and more complex than current viruses. The Mollivirus sibericum has over 500 genes. A virus found in 2003 was found to have more than 2,500 genes. In comparison, the flu virus has only eight genes.
Testing on the Mollivirus sibericum will take place in a safe laboratory, where the virus will not spread outside of the room after it is woken up and testing begins. Researchers are anxious to learn from the Frankenvirus and see what impact it had on prehistoric life and could potentially have on modern day life.
[Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images News]