Findings

Science  07 Mar 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6175, pp. 1064
  1. Viruses on Ice for Millennia Still Infectious

    CREDIT: IMAGE COURTESY OF JULIA BARTOLI AND CHANTAL ABERGEL, IGS AND CNRS-AMU

    Researchers have brought to life a giant virus dating back to the days of the last Neandertals. Previous projects have resurrected ancient pathogens, such as the 1918 flu virus, by reconstructing their genomes from old DNA, but "nobody has been able to use a virus that old to infect a host," says Marco Coolen, a molecular paleoecologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. Chantal Abergel and Jean-Michel Claverie from Aix-Marseille University in France simply dissolved 32,000-year-old frozen soil from Siberia and mixed in amoebas, known hosts for giant viruses. The newly discovered virus, called Pithovirus sibericum, killed the amoebas, which suggests that other pathogens can last thousands of years in permafrost and may be let loose as the planet warms, the researchers report this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. P. sibericum is the biggest virus discovered to date, but has about half the DNA of other giant viruses. http://scim.ag/icevirus

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