In the Tibetan glacier discovered a previously unknown ancient viruses

Pablo Tucker
January 24, 2020

Drilling hundreds of meters down into thousands of years old ice in a remote part of the world, only to discover multiple pathogens unknown to modern science sounds like the start of a movie that should come with a warning "Don't attempt this at home", which is of course exactly what scientists did.

Earth's oldest glacial ice is located in the Tibetan Plateau of China.

The research uncovered 33 viruses, including 28 never-before-seen virus groups, giving insight to how the viruses thrive or perhaps how they might be combated if released into the environment through climate change, according to the study.


They employed their techniques to consider two ice core samples of the Tibetan icy masses which were collected and stored previously beforehand without special care against tainting.

As the media outlet points out, the study of the viruses in question is complicated by the fact that the two ice cores, originally extracted in 1992 and in 2015 respectively, can be easily contaminated by contemporary bacteria, which has actually happened to the cores exterior (though, thankfully, the cores' interior remained pristine). You not only have to do it in the right conditions to ensure that the ice is unaffected, but you also have to ensure that no contamination is caused.

Scientists have found 28 new groups of viruses buried covered profound within a virus sleep.


"The microbes differed significantly across the two ice cores, presumably representing the very different climate conditions at the time of deposition that is similar to findings in other cores", the researchers wrote, claiming the experiment will help to establish a baseline for glacier viruses.

The team had the option to get to the samples by gradually getting off the external layers of ice by various methods.

"In the worst case, this ice melt could release pathogens into the environment [due to climate change]", wrote the researchers in their study, which was not assessed by experts.


"At a minimum, [ice melt] could lead to the loss of microbial and viral archives that could be diagnostic and informative of past Earth climate regimes", the team indicated in the paper.

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