The influenza virus can survive for thousands of years in frozen lakes and might be picked up and carried by birds to reinfect animals and people. After their release, these viruses can cause new infections and spread pandemics, researchers recently reported in the Journal of Virology.
"We have found viral rna in the ice in Siberia, which indicates a potential long-term survival mechanism for the virus," said Scott Rogers, one of the researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences. The researchers sampled three lakes in northeast Siberia in 2001 and 2002, which fall along the flight paths of birds flying into Asia, North America, Europe and Africa.
In a previous study of a plant virus the researchers found genes of viral rna in Greeland glacial ice cores that were 500 to 10,000 years old, Rogers said.
Every year the World Health Organization and other bodies try to predict which strain of the flu virus would be circulating sometimes they go wrong. Researchers expect the study will help make more accurate predictions . Studying lake ice as an influenza surveillance tool will also add to the ongoing effort to develop vaccines, they believe.
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