Science & Technology

Unknown viruses dating back 15,000 years found in Tibetan glacier

The viruses likely originated with soil or plants, rather than with humans or animals

 
By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 26 July 2021

Scientists have discovered viruses nearly 15,000 years old in two ice samples from the Tibetan Plateau. The study conducted by the team from Ohio State University has been published in journal microbiome.

The researchers analysed ice cores taken in 2015 from the Guliya ice cap in western China. Most of those viruses are unlike any viruses that have been catalogued to date, says the study. The team then analysed the ice and found 33 viruses at least 28 of which were previously unknown to science.

About half of them seemed to have survived because they were frozen in ice. The viruses likely originated with soil or plants, rather than with humans or animals. These viruses are also noted to be adapted to extreme conditions, according to the study.

In 2015, scientists found a 30,000-year-old virus Mollivirus sibericum that could still infect modern amoeba. Relatively little is known about viruses in glaciers, but interest is growing in this field as the ice around the world melts as a result of climate change.

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