Scientists revive 700-year-old Virus from Ancient Caribou Feces

A 700-year-old virus from ancient caribou feces has been successfully revived by scientists and they have infected a modern day plant with it. This development gives rise to an alarming possibility that global warming can bring other dead infectious viruses back to life.

The current knowledge about the ancient viruses is very much limited due to poor preservation and low concentrations. In this situation, genetic engineering comes to rescue as it helps scientists replicate ancient viruses and study them to understand how they interact with contemporary plants.

This 700-year-old virus was generated from ancient Canadian caribou feces (aCFV). It was discovered in a Canadian ice patch and because it had remained frozen for so long, the virus' DNA was still in good shape and easy to separate as distinct from caribou DNA

Speaking in this context, researchers from the Blood Systems Research Institute in San Francisco stated that they have learned that viruses can remain infectious for centuries.

Eric Delwart wrote in a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "We demonstrate that genetic material from ancient viruses associated with caribou fecal matter was cryogenically preserved for at least seven centuries, and that the cloned DNA genome of one of these viruses replicated and spread systematically in an extant plant".

Earlier this year, a French research couple found a 30,000-year-old virus frozen in the Siberian tundra. Chantal Abergel at Aix-Marseille University told Nature that nearly 60% of its genes content of the virus doesn't resemble anything on Earth.

Discovery of latent smallpox virus genes in 1990 in 400-year-old mummies also indicated that viruses can survive for hundreds or thousands of years.