28 unknown viruses have been identified in the ice of the 15,000-year-old Tibetan glacier

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25 July 2021, 17:17 GMT

The glaciers in Tibet are shrinking every year, and as they melt, ancient viruses rise to the surface.

A team of climatologists and microbiologists from Ohio State University analyzed two 15,000-year-old ice samples taken in 2015 from the Julia Glacier in western China and found the genetic codes for 33 viruses. 28 of them haven’t been indexed and converted to be brand new, according to A study Published in the journal Microbiome.

Glaciers store a great deal of information about Earth’s history while they were held dust particlesAnd gas effectsAnd microbes NS vegetable matter The environment. Thanks to the exploration of glaciers, it is possible to obtain data on the paleoclimate, the composition of the atmosphere and the species that existed at different times in history, explain Zhi-Ping Zhong, lead author of the study and researcher at The Ohio State University’s Byrd Center for Polar and Climate Research.

About, Half of them seemed to have survived the moment they frozeThe researchers said not in spite of the ice, but because of it. This is very important information, as the size of the glaciers in Tibet is shrinking every year and ancient viruses rise to the surface as they melt.

“here they are Viruses that can thrive in extreme conditions“They have genetic hallmarks that help them infect cells in extremely cold conditions,” explains another study participant, Dr. Matthew Sullivan, professor of microbiology at Ohio State University.

To decipher these signatures, scientists have developed a new method for Sterilization with ultra-pure ice This avoids contamination of the sample with modern microbes, which is a serious problem in these types of studies.

“Maybe this method will help us find genetic sequences in ice in other extreme conditions, for example, on Mars or the Moon or closer to us, in the Atacama Desert,” Sullivan says.

The authors of the work hope that their discovery will help trace the history of the evolution of viruses and better understand the changes that occurred in the environment of the distant past.

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