Out of Siberian ice, a virus revived

Now a team of French and Russian researchers has performed a resurrection of a more sinister nature. From Siberian permafrost more than 30,000 years old, they have revived a virus that’s new to science.

“To pull out a virus that’s 30,000 years old and actually grow it, that’s pretty impressive,” said Scott O. Rogers of Bowling Green State University who was not involved in the research. “This goes well beyond what anyone else has done.”

The thawed virus, which infects amoebae, is not a threat to humans. But if the new study holds up to scrutiny, it raises the possibility that disease-causing viruses may also be lurking in the permafrost.

The new virus was discovered by a group of researchers led by Chantal Abergel and Jean-Michel Claverie, a wife-and-husband team at Aix-Marseille University in France. Dr. Abergel and Dr. Claverie are veteran virus hunters, specializing in finding new species of so-called giant viruses.