Ancient Mystery Viruses Discovered Sealed Within Tibetan Glacier For 15,000 Years

Scientists have found 28 new groups of ancient viruses buried deep within a cold slumber. The viruses were discovered inside the cores of a 15,000-year-old Guliya ice cap on the Tibetan Plateau.

In their paper available on bioRxiv, researchers explain that contaminating such samples of viruses is not difficult. Hence, scientists employed a new method to study microbes preserved within the ice for ultraclean microbial and viral sampling, according to LiveScience.

They employed their techniques to study two ice core samples of the Tibetan glaciers which were collected and stored previously without special care against contamination. So, the exteriors were contaminated but the insides of the samples were still in mint condition.

The team was able to access the samples by gradually getting rid of the outer layers of ice by various methods. In a cold room maintained at -5°C, researchers used a sterilized band to cut a layer of ice, followed by ethanol to melt another layer of ice and then washed with sterile water to remove another layer.

A total of 1.5 centimetres of ice was removed to reach an uncontaminated layer. The researchers found 33 groups of virus genera of which, 28 were previously unknown. The microbes found in each ice core differed from the others, indicating that they were stored at different periods of climate conditions.

While these microbes were studied by researchers in controlled conditions, it is possible that the ice melt due to global warming might cause such ancient microbes to be released into the environment.

The researchers in their paper explained, “At a minimum, this could lead to the loss of microbial and viral archives that could be diagnostic and informative of past Earth climate regimes; however, in a worst-case scenario, this ice melt could release pathogens into the environment.”

Source - Mashable