Viruses found in a glacier 15,000 years ago - La Provincia

A large number of ancient virus groups have been identified in ice cores from 15,000 years ago extracted from a Tibetan glacier.

In 1992, a team of researchers collected ice core samples of a glacier on the Tibetan plateau; They calculated that the ice was approximately 15,000 years old. Some of the samples were stored cold for later study. Then, in 2015, another team collected samples of ice cores from the same glacier; They were also stored cold for later study.

In this new effort, researchers at the Ohio State University and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted a portion of the planned tests for the nuclei, observing what kind of organisms could get trapped in them.

1992 and 2015 teams

When the 1992 and 2015 teams originally collected their ice core samples, they did not make sure that the equipment they were using would not contaminate the cores they were collecting. That meant the researchers in the new study had to have special care to eliminate any contamination that would have occurred during the initial extraction and ensure that they did not introduce any contaminant of their own.

To ensure a pristine sample, the researchers, working in a freezer, first cut part of the outer layer of each central sample. Then, each sample was washed with ethanol to melt approximately half an inch of ice. Each was washed again with sterile water to melt the same. The team also created test samples by repeating the same cleaning procedure in the ice cores that had first been covered with known viruses and bacteria. The samples that remained were considered pristine and ready for study.

A close look at the newly cleaned ice cores revealed the presence of 33 groups of virus genera, 28 of which are not known by modern science.

The researchers, who publish results on bioRxiv, noted that the viruses they found in the nuclei of the two sites differed from each other, probably because they represented different points in time and, therefore, differences in climate. They point out that their work could increase in importance as the planet warms up due to global warming and melts glaciers, possibly reactivating deadly viruses.


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