Giant viruses: what creatures lurk in the permafrost

© RIA Novosti / V. to Pallavpuram in fotobanka permafrost is up to 70% of the territory of Russia, every summer the top layer thaws more and moreGiant viruses: what creatures lurk in the permafrost© RIA Novosti / V. to Pallavpuram the image Bank

Recently, in the permafrost found and activated the giant viruses in tens of thousands of years. They only infect amoebas, but as you know, will not thaw in the Arctic, which is warming faster than other regions of the planet, something more malicious.

Too big

Viruses are tiny microorganisms that are not visible in a normal microscope and penetrating through sterilizing filters. They were opened by Russian scientist, Dmitry Ivanovsky over a hundred years ago. However, nowadays these ideas have to be checked. Scientists have identified the viruses with a size in the micrometer and more. Call them the giant they are already visible in the optical microscope.

The researchers acknowledge that to ignore giant viruses previously prevented the «epistemological barrier»: all larger than 0.3 micrometer, a priori attributed to bacteria. That’s why giant mimivirus isolated from sewage in an English hospital where he lay sick during the outbreak of pneumonia in 1996, identified, actually, as the virus only in 2003.

In 2014, two families of giant viruses found in the soil samples from the permafrost, produced in the North-East of Yakutia. Them 30 thousand years.

«In our laboratory we studied amoebae and other protists, continued in the permafrost. When I discovered giant viruses, the French scientists suggested that we collaborate and look for these organisms in Siberia», — says Lyubov Shmakova, senior researcher of the laboratory of soil Cryology, Institute of physicochemical and biological problems of soil science.

These creatures are called picoverse (Pithovirus sibericum) and polivirus.

Unbelievable but true: the frozen tens of thousands of years ago giant viruses had managed to revive. And as bait, the researchers used modern amoebas. By the way, their ancient predecessors Lyubov Shmakovo managed to revive in 2005.
Giant viruses have survived to the present day. Scientists describe their more modern representatives, not only in acanthameba, but also in other protists.

Dangerous ancient microbes

Giant viruses again raise the question of the danger of ancient infections. In the article «Re-emerging infectious diseases from the past: Hysteria or real risk?» («The resurrection of the infectious diseases of the past: hysteria or real risk»), one of the sponsors which made the discoverer of Petavius Jean-Michel Claverie (Jean-Michel Claverie) from the Marseille Institute of Microbiology, the scientists recalled the outbreak of anthrax that occurred in 2016 in Chukotka, once thawed the burial of a century ago. Suddenly, the ancient virus will cause an epidemic? After all, we still don’t know why Neanderthals went extinct — maybe from infection. And it happened just about 30 thousand years ago. If so, according to the authors of the work, revived the microbe can be even more dangerous because we never had contact. However, to pick up a giant virus from the permafrost of the people is not threatened, say scientists, because it only affects amoebas.

«If the risk is minimal, concludes Shmakov. — Imagine that the permafrost thaws every summer and all of its contents exposed to the elements. And the people in those places where they found giant viruses, then they did not live, so it is unlikely that there are the germs dangerous for us. In any case, talking about it now can only be hypothetical».
© Photo : Love Shmakov / Ephippidae other secrets lie beneath the permafrost of SiberiaGiant viruses: what creatures lurk in the permafrost© Photo : Love Shmakov / Ephippidae other secrets lie beneath the permafrost of Siberia