15,000 Years Old Viruses: A team of scientists has discovered nearly 15,000-year-old viruses while studying glacier ice.
- These viruses have been discovered in two ice samples taken from the Tibetan Plateau in China.
- The findings, published on July 20, 2021, in the journal Microbiome.
- Most of them are unlike any viruses that have been cataloged to date.
- The ice samples were collected from the cores at high altitudes – the summit of Guliya, where this ice originated, is 22,000 feet above sea level.
- Most of those viruses, which survived because they had remained frozen, are unlike any viruses that have been cataloged to date.
Key Details about the Study:
- For the study, the scientists also created a new, ultra-clean method of analyzing microbes and viruses in ice without contaminating it.
- The findings may help scientists understand how viruses evolved over centuries.
- Glaciers begin forming in places where more snow piles up each year than melts.
- Each year, new layers of snow bury and compress the previous layers along with dust and gases, many viruses are also deposited in the ice.
- Ice cores are like time capsules that scientists have used to understand more about climate change, microbes, viruses, and gases throughout history.
- The researchers analyzed ice cores taken in 2015 from the summit of Guliya in western China, which were collected from a height of nearly 22,000 feet above sea level.
- Using a combination of traditional and new techniques to date the ice core, the researchers determined that the ice was nearly 15,000 years old.
- After a detailed investigation, the team found genetic codes for 33 viruses in the core. While four of them have already been identified by the scientific community, at least 28 of them are novel.
- About half of them seemed to have survived because of the ice, not in spite of it.
- This implies that the viruses thrived in extreme environments.
- The analysis also showed that the viruses likely originated from soil or plants, not animals or humans, based on both the environment and the databases of known viruses.
- This study was an interdisciplinary effort between Ohio State’s Byrd Center and its Center for Microbiome Science.
- Funding came from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.