Scientists Reviving 30,000 Year Old "Giant" Virus To See What Happens

Scientists Reviving 30,000 Year Old "Giant" Virus To See What Happens

Mollivirus sibericum cells

A 30,000 year-old "giant" virus discovered in Siberia might awaken due to climate change, prompting scientists to experiment on it now.

Outside of the obvious concerns around climate change, there is an especially worrying side effect: The return of prehistoric viruses. As Arctic environments warm up, ancient viruses that lay dormant for thousands of years might thaw and reinfect humans once again. Now a team of French scientists are closely studying viruses uncovered in Siberia to ensure they won't wipe out humanity in a few decades. The trouble is, you can't just study frozen samples to see what will happen - which is why the team will attempt to revive the virus to see what it's capable of.

To be clear, the team aren't mad scientists resurrecting an ancient plague to set it loose on the general population. These researchers from France's National Centre for Scientific Research will run experiments in safe laboratory conditions after verifying the bug can't infect humans or animals. Researchers will place the virus - called Mollivirus sibericum - in a petri dish with a single-cell amoeba which should act as a host. "A few viral particles that are still infectious may be enough, in the presence of a vulnerable host, to revive potentially pathogenic viruses," lead researcher Jean-Michel Claverie explained.

According to Claverie, these studies are important because frozen regions like Siberia will soon be accessible to industrial development. "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."

There is a precedent for such research. In 2004, a team of US scientists resurrected the Spanish flu to better understand how it could kill tens of millions of people. Yet by comparison, M. sibericum is far more complex, being a "giant" virus with over 500 genes while the Spanish flu only had eight. And M. sibericum isn't even the biggest virus out there - the Pandoravirus uncovered in 2003 has 2500 genes.

So to conclude, I'm glad Claverie's team is doing this research. But I can't help but feel tempted to hide in a bunker until sometime after the results are published.

Source: The Telegraph

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Welcome to End of the world Horror movie plot #247

To be fair, the most successful virus would hypothetically be ones that are highly contagious and do not harm the host. You'd think that the more complex they'd get the more beneficial they'd become to the host.

Complexity should not mean deadly except in cases where your death benefits the creature. In venom it makes sense, but not so much in viruses.

This is certainly important research. What the hell, virus...what do you need that many genes for? Hoards Scrooge Mcgee.
I'm sure The Daily mail will totally not blow this out of proportion for a sensationalist headline.

While I'm sure that they'll be careful.., I can't help but feel a bit nervous... Maybe I'm too genre savy.

Fanghawk:
Yet byy comparison, M. sibericum is far more complex,

Just your friendly neighborhood English Degree holder pointing out a typo.

OT: *Insert Joke About Resident Evil Here.*

I really think that title ought to be changed, it's wildly misleading. Scientists aren't reviving it, the first line says climate change is...the thing a bunch of scientists have been trying to warn us was coming for years!

Just saying, seems unfair to blame the scientists for this one.

zombie horde incomming

"Scientists reviving 30k old virus to see what happens". I have to wonder, why do they feel the need to poke things!?

Zeras:
"Scientists reviving 30k old virus to see what happens". I have to wonder, why do they feel the need to poke things!?

I thought the article explained that need. Something like... "Could be dangerous, we don't know, so we check it out now while nobody is likely to naturally be exposed to it in hopes that if it is dangerous we can manage it before anyone is exposed and limit chances of exposure, and if it isn't dangerous... No harm no foul." Simplistic reason here. Better the boy scout approach to potentially infectious diseases then the caveman.

Also so that in a few years, read a decade or so tops, time there aren't headlines like: "Unknown contaminant - potentially biological - wipes out mining facility in Siberia. World holds its breath as WHO begins collaborative investigation on site." Not a good headline.

Namehere:

Zeras:
"Scientists reviving 30k old virus to see what happens". I have to wonder, why do they feel the need to poke things!?

I thought the article explained that need. Something like... "Could be dangerous, we don't know, so we check it out now while nobody is likely to naturally be exposed to it in hopes that if it is dangerous we can manage it before anyone is exposed and limit chances of exposure, and if it isn't dangerous... No harm no foul." Simplistic reason here. Better the boy scout approach to potentially infectious diseases then the caveman.

Also so that in a few years, read a decade or so tops, time there aren't headlines like: "Unknown contaminant - potentially biological - wipes out mining facility in Siberia. World holds its breath as WHO begins collaborative investigation on site." Not a good headline.

I'd rather they [scientists] just kill it with fire. That way there's no chance of containment breach and we all end up finding out how dangerous that specimen is.

Zeras:

Namehere:

Zeras:
"Scientists reviving 30k old virus to see what happens". I have to wonder, why do they feel the need to poke things!?

I thought the article explained that need. Something like... "Could be dangerous, we don't know, so we check it out now while nobody is likely to naturally be exposed to it in hopes that if it is dangerous we can manage it before anyone is exposed and limit chances of exposure, and if it isn't dangerous... No harm no foul." Simplistic reason here. Better the boy scout approach to potentially infectious diseases then the caveman.

Also so that in a few years, read a decade or so tops, time there aren't headlines like: "Unknown contaminant - potentially biological - wipes out mining facility in Siberia. World holds its breath as WHO begins collaborative investigation on site." Not a good headline.

I'd rather they [scientists] just kill it with fire. That way there's no chance of containment breach and we all end up finding out how dangerous that specimen is.

It's in the ground. Its in the environment. Shall we roast Siberia? Would that even help? I mean it is bellow the surface level of a region of the world that has been for thousands of years, and by and large to date remains, coated in permafrost. That's melting and this virus will soon be exposed to the world again. 'Fire' is hardly a valid solution and doesn't demonstrate anything about the virus itself. What if it is dangerous, shall we light the infected on fire? The idea that we might discover its dangerous and find a cure or vaccine for it before it becomes commonly exposed seems a little more reasonable to me. Even if we only discover it is dangerous and our best method of dealing with it is avoidance. Or of course it may not represent any threat at all, in which case we'd have wasted fire.

And frankly whether its dangerous or not, whose to say what insight this particular and obviously unusual virus might provide to scientists? Burn it?

Nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

To see what happens doesn't sound like the greatest of reasons, but you have to put these things in context.

To start with, it's a damn sight better than the reasons he gave to the budgeting panel for his previous funding meetings, namely "I'LL SHOW THEM! I'LL SHOW THEM ALL!", "THEY'LL RUE THE DAY THEY OPPOSED MY MACHINATIONS!", "FIRST THE NTH DIMENSION, THEN MANHATTAN!" and of course "MUHAHAHAHAHAHA!".

Curiously "Muhahahahahaha!" was to secure funding for an on site staff cafeteria.

Lightknight:
To be fair, the most successful virus would hypothetically be ones that are highly contagious and do not harm the host. You'd think that the more complex they'd get the more beneficial they'd become to the host.

Complexity should not mean deadly except in cases where your death benefits the creature. In venom it makes sense, but not so much in viruses.

But as you know, it takes evolution to make sure the virus has the ability to live in it's host and thrive. It will take a lot of deaths before the virus mutates to something that a entirely new population can bare.

Case in point, How Smallpox devastated the native Americans coming from conquistadors. Or Warring nations launching plagued bodies over walls.

Yeah, this could be bad.

Caramel Frappe:
Yyyeeaaaaahhhhh ... I totally can't see this getting abused somehow. /sarcasm

If people infiltrated the lab or got their hands on a very dangerous virus, they could end up using it for warfare or terrorism. I know this seems far fetched, but you'd be surprised what people try to do in terms of getting the upper hand in weaponry.

After all, if the virus ends up not harming humans in any way then it's all good right ...? Right ...?
. ... ... *nervous eyes intensifies*

biological terrorism is one of the least effective means of terrorism in existence. For the resources required to steal, transport without killing your own allies while keeping it alive, and deploy such a weapon (It turns out spreading most viruses deliberately is surprisingly hard) a terrorist could build a far more effective chemical weapon, or just a really really big conventional bomb that has a vastly higher chance of actually killing what it's aimed at without the constant risk of infecting your own side.

Even if someone became determined to commit an act of biological warfare they wouldn't try to steal that one, we don't even know if it's capable of harming humans. If one were determined to commit such an act there are countless other diseases currently stored that definitely can harm humans that could've been stolen (For a given definition of 'could've', they're guarded by a hell of a lot more than a 'keep out' sign)

Oh, you want to know what happens? Ahem. In the not-too-distant future...

Seriously, though, I'm reminded of the game, Plague Inc. now.

Can't help but laugh about people thinking this thing could be dangerous. It's such an old virus, it probably doesn't even apply to most things around. The worst it might do is give a stegosaurus a bad case of genital warts.

As a terrorist, you'd be much better off trying to weaponize the common flu to try to kill the grandmother of the dictator you're trying to depose.

CrazyGirl17:
While I'm sure that they'll be careful.., I can't help but feel a bit nervous... Maybe I'm too genre savy.

You're nervous? I've only got three days left 'til retirement!

All we really need is Richard Dean Anderson, though.

Who knew gorillas got so militant? What even are their demands? more bananas? ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

NO WAY! Captcha: Banana Stand!

moggett88:
I really think that title ought to be changed, it's wildly misleading. Scientists aren't reviving it, the first line says climate change is...the thing a bunch of scientists have been trying to warn us was coming for years!

Just saying, seems unfair to blame the scientists for this one.

Misleading headlines on the Escapist? Worded in a way that implies doom and gloom regardless of the actual context of the article?

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/141511-Scientists-Create-Brain-to-Brain-Interface-in-Monkeys-and-Rats

Nooooo! Say it isn't so.

Zeras:
"Scientists reviving 30k old virus to see what happens". I have to wonder, why do they feel the need to poke things!?

Dear GOD this does sound like a setup for a horror movie... eh, what's the worse that could happen?

Shouldn't it be an extreme improbability that any virus that managed to "thaw out" (and I'm still giggling over this) would pose any real threat to humanity?

I mean, wouldn't Darwin's theory basically dictate that if there WAS a super killer virus (like the black plague, ahem) that most of us alive today would be descendant of people who were immune, or at least resistant to it (just like... you guess it, the black plague).

As people may have noticed, I'm pointing out that we have pretty solid medical evidence that a large portion of the population, particularly in Europe (which was hit the hardest by the plague) have a mutation in their CCR-5 receptor gene which among other things makes them immune to plague pathogens and even HIV. Natural selection at work perhaps?

In any case, it seems far less scary the lede of the article would have you believe.

Caramel Frappe:

MoltenSilver:
biological terrorism is one of the least effective means of terrorism in existence. For the resources required to steal, transport without killing your own allies while keeping it alive, and deploy such a weapon (It turns out spreading most viruses deliberately is surprisingly hard) a terrorist could build a far more effective chemical weapon, or just a really really big conventional bomb that has a vastly higher chance of actually killing what it's aimed at without the constant risk of infecting your own side.

Even if someone became determined to commit an act of biological warfare they wouldn't try to steal that one, we don't even know if it's capable of harming humans. If one were determined to commit such an act there are countless other diseases currently stored that definitely can harm humans that could've been stolen (For a given definition of 'could've', they're guarded by a hell of a lot more than a 'keep out' sign)

True, true ... I was just worried because of a real life incident.

With Ebola on the run in Africa, there was a case where gorilla soldiers would invade a hospital and steal Ebola patient's blankets and what not. They used this to switch their rival's blankets with the infected one. Not sure if it was effective, but hearing about such actions is quite terrifying. Then again to risk getting Ebola yourself just to kill people is pretty insane overall.

Nothing new, the british gave the native infected blankets. The french were the ones on the straight and narrow. (during the British North America/French colony tussle).

As for this virus, I'm pretty sure our body would've some genetic memory about it, the question is if it is even intact with the time difference or if our immune system even works the same way. We have an "imprinting" system if you will for producing antigen, I agree with the scientists though, we simply don't know, so testing it is actually a really good idea.

when i read the headline i thought of the macrovirus from Startrek Voyager

And for their next project, scientists are going to build giant robots that get angry easily.

500 genes?! What the fuck do you want so many genes, sibericum?!

Anyway, it's nice to see that they're testing its infectious capabilities, although I wonder if it's even capable if infecting humans.

Jake Martinez:
Shouldn't it be an extreme improbability that any virus that managed to "thaw out" (and I'm still giggling over this) would pose any real threat to humanity?

I mean, wouldn't Darwin's theory basically dictate that if there WAS a super killer virus (like the black plague, ahem) that most of us alive today would be descendant of people who were immune, or at least resistant to it (just like... you guess it, the black plague).

As people may have noticed, I'm pointing out that we have pretty solid medical evidence that a large portion of the population, particularly in Europe (which was hit the hardest by the plague) have a mutation in their CCR-5 receptor gene which among other things makes them immune to plague pathogens and even HIV. Natural selection at work perhaps?

In any case, it seems far less scary the lede of the article would have you believe.

Actually no, since this virus would have been dormant for over 30,000 years that's a lot of time for people to lose that mutation that may have saved them. The reason a significant number of humans still have plague resistance is that it was extremely recent in terms of evolutionary time. We may still have the genes which protect us from that virus but they may not be "turned on" anymore, or may be non functioning anymore (due to mutations which have no ill effect when the virus is not present).

I do completely agree though that the article title is grossly misleading and that what these scientists are doing isn't "for shits and giggles." They're doing something for a very valid reason, and may help prevent deaths. Or maybe they won't! Maybe they're actually working on a super virus that can turn people into slaves... I'm onto you France, think you can fool me with your delicious baguettes?

But if these giant viruses aren't around today then maybe that because a virus with a lot of genes are simply ineffective as a virus? Maybe they mutate to slowly or something

Caramel Frappe:

True, true ... I was just worried because of a real life incident.

With Ebola on the run in Africa, there was a case where gorilla soldiers would invade a hospital and steal Ebola patient's blankets and what not. They used this to switch their rival's blankets with the infected one. Not sure if it was effective, but hearing about such actions is quite terrifying. Then again to risk getting Ebola yourself just to kill people is pretty insane overall.

Not sure how much truth in that incident but its not effective. you cannot get infected with ebola this way. you need a body liquid transfer from infected patient to uninefected one. The only way this would work is if the blanked was soaked in patients blood and the virus would survive the journey on the blanked and the enemy would have open wounds and sleep naked. the ones that stole probably had a higher risk due to being so close to the actual source.

Ebola is really a hype virus. and by that i mean it is hyped far beyond its capabilities or damage. Even if we assume an outbreak in US or europe, it would die out very quickly. Our living conditions are way too sterile for it. This is why it only really survives in Africa where they have things like a tradition to touch the dead by the entire tribe. Ebola mortality, death rate and actual infections make it but a dot compared to things like black plague.

 

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