Scientists Find 15,000-Year-Old Viruses in Ice Samples Taken from China’s Tibetan Plateau | The Weather Channel – Articles de The Weather Channel
Scientists have found viruses nearly 15,000 years old in two ice samples taken from the Tibetan Plateau in China. Most of these viruses, which survived because they had remained frozen, do not look like any viruses listed so far.
The results, published in the journal Microbiome, can help understand how viruses have evolved over the centuries. For this study, scientists also created a new, ultra-clean method of analyzing microbes and viruses in ice without contaminating it.
“These glaciers formed gradually, and along with the dust and gases, many viruses also settled in this ice,” said lead author Zhi-Ping Zhong, a researcher at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center of the Ohio State University, which also focuses on microbiology.
“Glaciers in western China are not well studied and our goal is to use this information to reflect past environments. And viruses are one of those environments,” Zhong added.
The team analyzed ice cores taken in 2015 from the Guliya ice cap in western China. Carrots are collected at high altitudes – the summit of Guliya, where this ice comes from, is 22,000 feet above sea level.
When they scanned the ice, they found the genetic codes for 33 viruses. Four of these viruses have already been identified by the scientific community. But at least 28 of them are new. About half of them seemed to have survived by the time they were frozen not despite the ice, but because of it.
“These are viruses that would have thrived in extreme environments,” said Matthew Sullivan, Ohio State professor of microbiology.
“These viruses have gene signatures that help them infect cells in cold environments – just surreal genetic signatures for how a virus is able to survive in extreme conditions,” he added.
Four of the viruses in the Guliya ice cap core had previously been identified and belonged to families of viruses that typically infect bacteria. The researchers found the viruses at much lower concentrations than those found in the oceans or soil.
The analysis showed that the viruses probably originated from the soil or plants, and not from animals or humans, based on both the environment and databases of known viruses.
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