Scientists Unearth 33 Viruses, Long Locked in Tibetan Glacier

Scientists Unearth 33 Viruses Long Locked in Tibetan Glacier

Scientists Unearth 33 Viruses Long Locked in Tibetan Glacier

This discovery began back in 1992, then most recently in 2015, when a scientific team led by researchers from the United States and China journeyed to exotic Tibet for a frosty excursion to drill for fresh examples of the planet's oldest ice.

In the paper, the scientists explained that as glaciers continue to shrink, mostly due to climate change, "this will release glacial microbes and viruses that have been trapped and preserved for tens to hundreds of thousands of years".

Knowledge of these potential re-released viruses could be important amid worldwide ice melt, and scientists are only scratching the surface of viruses, according to French National Centre for Scientific Research's Chantal Abergel to Vice.

Upon examining ice core samples taken from the glacier, researchers were able to identify over two dozen viruses that nobody has ever seen. For the objective of extracting ancient ice cores were placed in the laboratory at a temperature of -5 degrees.

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In addition to developing a new protocol for "ultra-clean microbial and viral sampling procedures", the samples have provided "a first window into viral genomes and their ecology from glacier ice", according to the paper. These cores were not handled in a way that prevents contamination during drilling, handling and transportation - which means that the exterior of the ice was most likely contaminated.

The team worked in a cold room at minus 5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit) to access the inner part of the cores, using a saw to cut 0.2 inches (0.5 centimeters) of ice from the outside later.

The team had the option to get to the samples by gradually getting off the external layers of ice by various methods. The researchers found 33 groups of virus genera of which, 28 were previously unknown. "The microbes differed significantly across the two ice cores", the researchers wrote, "presumably representing the very different climate conditions at the time of deposition".

"In a worst-case scenario, this ice melt [from climate change] could release pathogens into the environment", the researchers wrote in their study, which has not been peer-reviewed.

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