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Scientist revives 48,500-year-old 'zombie' virus found in Siberian permafrost

Rachel Lang

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Scientist revives 48,500-year-old 'zombie' virus found in Siberian permafrost

Featured Image Credit: Jean-Michel Claverie/IGS/CNRS-AM. Mark Klein / Alamy Stock Photo

Scientists have revive a 'zombie' virus that has been dormant for tens of thousands of years in the depths of the Siberia's permafrost.

This in no way whatsoever sounded like a bad idea at all, apparently.

Excuse us while we go cram the first season of The Last Of Us; for entertainment purposes and definitely not survival tactics to survive a zombie apocalypse. We swear.

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Scientists told CNN that the risks are minimal to mankind.

The zombie virus hunter - also known as Jean-Michel Claverie, an Emeritus professor of medicine and genomics at the Aix-Marseille University School of Medicine in France - has been testing earth samples from the permafrost to check for hidden nasties.

A scientist takes a ground sample from a layer of melting permafrost on the Duvanny Yar cliff in northeast Siberia. Credit: Reuters/Alamy
A scientist takes a ground sample from a layer of melting permafrost on the Duvanny Yar cliff in northeast Siberia. Credit: Reuters/Alamy

And he found some. Woo hoo.

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"We view these amoeba-infecting viruses as surrogates for all other possible viruses that might be in the permafrost," Claverie told CNN.

"We see the traces of many, many, many other viruses so we know they are there. We don’t know for sure that they are still alive.

He added: "But our reasoning is that if the amoeba viruses are still alive, there is no reason why the other viruses will not be still alive, and capable of infecting their own hosts."

The oldest virus the team managed to revive was a casual 48,500 years old.

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His research was published last month in the journal Viruses.

Birgitta Evengård, Professor emerita at the Department of Clinical Microbiology at Umea University in Sweden, has admitted there does need to be a stronger level of surveillance when it comes to unearthing viruses like these.

"You must remember our immune defense has been developed in close contact with microbiological surroundings," she told CNN.

"If there is a virus hidden in the permafrost that we have not been in contact with for thousands of years, it might be that our immune defense is not sufficient."

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She added: "It is correct to have respect for the situation and be proactive and not just reactive. And the way to fight fear is to have knowledge."

But it isn't just zombie viruses lurking in the frozen earth.

Scientists revealed there is also chemical and radioactive waste that dates back to the Cold War that could harm wildlife and throw a spanner in the works for ecosystems.

But no biggie. We guess.

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This old house in Norway is gradually sliding down slope due to solifluction and permafrost melt. Credit: Nature Picture Library / Alamy
This old house in Norway is gradually sliding down slope due to solifluction and permafrost melt. Credit: Nature Picture Library / Alamy

NASA climate scientist Kimberley Miner dubbed what is going on with the permafrost as 'of concern'.

"There’s a lot going on with the permafrost that is of concern, and [it] really shows why it’s super important that we keep as much of the permafrost frozen as possible," she said, according to CNN.

The permafrost covers a fifth of the Northern Hemisphere and has blanketed the forests of Alaska, Canada and Russia for thousands of years.

It has acted as a time capsule and preserved all sorts of things as well as ancient viruses.

For example, scientists have also found the preserved remains of a wooly rhino and two cave lion cubs, which is neat.

But it ain't zombie virus level cool. Or the same level of concern.

Topics: News, Health, Science, World News

Rachel Lang
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