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Scientists Awaken The Giant Virus Of The Stone Age

Update Date: Mar 05, 2014 09:33 AM EST
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World's biggest virus, belonging to Stone Age, locked deep under the ice of Siberia for at least 30,000 years was awakened by French scientists recently, The Province reported. 

The virus though possessed no danger to human or animal species. It is so large that it could be seen under a conventional microscope. Reportedly, the virus belongs to the age when mammoths and Neanderthals walked the Earth. 

"This is the first time we've seen a virus that's still infectious after this length of time," said Professor Jean-Michel Claverie, from the National Centre of Scientific Research, who revived the virus with Chantal Abergel, his fellow researcher and wife, according to The Province. "Sixty per cent of its gene content doesn't resemble anything on Earth." 

Scientists added that although the awakened virus did not poses risk for human, other species of viruses might be lying under the permafrost waiting to be unleashed due to drilling or grilling. 

The virus has been named Pithovirus sibericum and was found in a 100ft-deep sample of permanently frozen soil taken from coastal tundra in Chukotka, near the East Siberian Sea. 

The research suggested that radiocarbon dating of the soil put the vegetation that grew in at more than 30,000 years old. 

Normally, modern viruses are smaller in sizes and have few genes (i.e., influenza virus has 13 genes) whereas P. Sibericum carries 500 genes. 

People will go there; they will settle there, and they will start mining and drilling. Human activities are going to perturb layers that have been dormant for three million years," added Prof Claverie in The Province. "The revival of viruses that are considered to have been eradicated, such as smallpox, whose replication process is similar to that of Pithovirus, is no longer limited to science fiction.

"The risk that this scenario could happen in real life has to be viewed realistically."

The paper has been published in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

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