French scientists discovered a 30,000 year old virus in the Siberian permafrost, due to climate change and an ancient squirrel. These small rodents store away fruit seeds, which after being found now they have been regenerated into full flowering plants by scientists in Russia.

That finding allowed researchers to discover the ancient giant virus in the same soil. It was buried 30 meters under ground and was in contact with the squirrel nest. The virus is known as Mollivirus sibericum, and measures 0.6 microns across, an enormous size compared to a modern virus and bacteria.

Scientists are attempting to reanimate a 30,000-year-old “giant” virus, but soon climate change may be doing it for them. NIAID, CC BY 2.0. Credit: Medical Daily

The virus, which was uncovered by the rising temperatures of climate change it’s actually the fourth since the discovery of the Mimivirus in 2003. The other two were the Pandoraviruses uncovered in 2013 and the Pithovirus sibericum unearthed in 2014.

When the team found it they isolated samples of the Mollivirus Sibericum as they were not sure of what they had in hands. Reviving a virus that is thousands of years old can represent serious threats to human health, and it has always been a subject of concern among researchers.

For the analysis, scientists used a technique that has led to the discovery of many viruses. Amoeba was used as bait to attract any virus present in the sample. The group of scientists grew amoeba in the lab and mixed them with the permafrost samples. Then, they began to notice that some of them were dying. They observed that something was evidently killing them, which led them to the final discovery of the virus.

Fortunately, scientists say that there’s nothing to worry about for now. They’re going to confirm that the virus cannot spread to humans before they wake it. However, researchers wrote in their report, “The fact that two different viruses could be easily revived from prehistoric permafrost should be of concern in a context of global warming.”

Source: PNAS