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Scientists Revive a Giant 30,000 Year Old Virus From Ice

samzenpus posted about 9 months ago | from the I-saw-this-movie dept.

Science 121

bmahersciwriter writes "It might be terrifying if we were amoebae. Instead, it's just fascinating. The virus, found in a hunk of Siberian ice, is huge, but also loosely packaged, which is strange says evolutionary biologist Jean-Michel Claverie: 'We thought it was a property of viruses that they pack DNA extremely tightly into the smallest particle possible, but this guy is 150 times less compacted than any bacteriophage [viruses that infect bacteria]. We don't understand anything anymore!'"

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Welp (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46391347)

This virus will be our undoing. The end is nigh!

Re:Welp (0)

GloomE (695185) | about 9 months ago | (#46391879)

Don't be ridiculous. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Re:Welp (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46392375)

Humanity is like a big baby left unsupervised, licking, poking, touching everything, because it can. Sooner or later, the fork ends up in the toaster or it drinks the dish washing liquid.

Re:Welp (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46394875)

There would be no toaster or washing up liquid if Humanity was not like this...

Re:Welp (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 9 months ago | (#46395299)

I dunno about humanity, but the scientists obsessed with this is headed toward a socket with a butterknife. Will we have anothe contestant for the Darwins?
Scientist revives bacteria that kills him could be a winner this year.

Re:Welp (1)

NikeHerc (694644) | about 9 months ago | (#46398311)

Scientist revives bacteria that kills him could be a winner this year.

If memory serves, one of the people who helped resurrect the Spanish flu died, sadly, as a result.

Re:Welp (1)

parkinglot777 (2563877) | about 9 months ago | (#46395465)

Don't be ridiculous. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

I appreciate your optimistic. However, I feel that you are on an extreme side because you said "nothing can go wrong"; where as, the OP is on the other side because of "The end is nigh!".

My concern is not about right now, but it is about what if. Reviving something that has gone for a long time from the world would open up many different events that could be both good and bad because everything has an impact on one another. The impact could be very little and seems to be none, or it could be very significant. Right now, we know nothing. If the impact is good or neutral, there is nothing to be worried about. What if it is bad and significant even though it could be extremely rare? It is similar to that you have a group of people. You need only one bad apple in the whole crowd to cause trouble. This situation is similar to it -- only one bad impact could cause a serious trouble.

Therefore, I would be a bit concern but not panic. In other words, I will have to keep an eye on what they are doing and will not completely trust what news they produced; however, I do not protest them to stop what they want to do...

Re:Welp (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46391981)

Would you mind if I fucked you in the ass?

Re:Welp (1)

Matheus (586080) | about 9 months ago | (#46396685)

Zombies.

Pray or Prey? (5, Funny)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 9 months ago | (#46391353)

just hope that this bug is not designed to attack large, warm blooded, animals.

Re:Pray or Prey? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46391405)

As even the summary stated quite clearly, it's only able to attack amoebae. Mind you, that does adequately describe the reading comprehension skill level of some slashdotters.

Re:Pray or Prey? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46391513)

Great, so now we'll have virus ridden shoggoths roaming the streets.

Re:Pray or Prey? (2)

halfEvilTech (1171369) | about 9 months ago | (#46391569)

well the assume anyways - other giant viruses are the same in that they only attack amoebae but this giant virus is also unlike anything they ever tested. The basically set the permafrost in a container and let it go to work. They didn't try other organisms. so their assumptions are partially based on the work of prior giant viruses.

Re:Pray or Prey? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 9 months ago | (#46392317)

I volunteer any member of Congress to go mano a mano with the virus. Friggin bunch of disorganized slime that they are, it might find some valid targets.

Re:Pray or Prey? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46396715)

As even the summary stated quite clearly, it's only able to attack amoebae.

And scientists are never wrong...

30,000 year old nope (5, Funny)

dgp (11045) | about 9 months ago | (#46391369)

Revive a 30,000 year old virus, they said. It'll be fun they said.

Re:30,000 year old nope (5, Funny)

MaksimS (930702) | about 9 months ago | (#46391481)

What could possibly go wrong?

Re:30,000 year old nope (4, Funny)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 9 months ago | (#46391945)

What could possibly go wrong?

Hey, are my eyes supposed to be going black?

Re:30,000 year old nope (1)

wallsg (58203) | about 9 months ago | (#46392133)

That's the first thing that popped into my head also. What was the name of that show?

Re:30,000 year old nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46392161)

X-files. You're thinking of the Black Oil.

Re:30,000 year old nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46393009)

Helix

Re: 30,000 year old nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46395353)

Life imitating art*.

*very loose definition of art...

Re:30,000 year old nope (2)

cold fjord (826450) | about 9 months ago | (#46392017)

Hopefully it won't result in some form of mutant giant man-eating amoeba like things [youtube.com] , or something. Of course a virulent microscopic blood-borne disease organism would be bad too.

Re:30,000 year old nope (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 9 months ago | (#46392169)

Nah man, if we had only known about the existence of giant amoeba-eating viruses at the time those movies would have ended much sooner.

Re:30,000 year old nope (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 9 months ago | (#46392355)

You're assuming the giant virus didn't cause the problem. ;)

Re:30,000 year old nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46393263)

Bookmark it: http://slashdot.org/tag/whatco... [slashdot.org]

Thus began the zombie apocalypse..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46391873)

Thus began the zombie apocalypse.....

Re:30,000 year old nope (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46392049)

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.

Re:30,000 year old nope (1)

Eloking (877834) | about 9 months ago | (#46392141)

Sci-fi novel aside, I really wonder what are the risk that a 30k years old virus would be able to survive in our environment. I'm no microbiologist, but am I wrong to think the virus is not equipped to infect any "modern" living organism?

Re:30,000 year old nope (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 9 months ago | (#46392325)

30,000 years is a blink in the evolutionary time line. While it might have a few novel antigens, it should be mostly harmless.

famous last words (1)

wasteoid (1897370) | about 9 months ago | (#46393741)

"it might have a few novel antigens" - infamous quote from pre-antigen-ravaged world

Re:30,000 year old nope (1)

teg (97890) | about 9 months ago | (#46394357)

Sci-fi novel aside, I really wonder what are the risk that a 30k years old virus would be able to survive in our environment. I'm no microbiologist, but am I wrong to think the virus is not equipped to infect any "modern" living organism?

A virus [wikipedia.org] isn't living in the first place.

Re:30,000 year old nope (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 9 months ago | (#46394501)

A virus [wikipedia.org] isn't living in the first place.

Says you and most people, but there's room for doubt.

Besides, GP never said viruses were alive.

Re:30,000 year old nope (2)

Carewolf (581105) | about 9 months ago | (#46394867)

A virus isn't living in the first place.

It is made of living things and reproduces by attacking living things turning them into a selfdestructive mockery of live. Virus is not fully alive, it is UNDEAD.

Re:30,000 year old nope (2)

steelfood (895457) | about 9 months ago | (#46392529)

It'll be fun

Famous last words.

Re:30,000 year old nope (1)

Phoeniyx (2751919) | about 9 months ago | (#46392849)

Johnny Cage, I challenge you!

Re:30,000 year old nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46394105)

"revive"? Viruses are not living beings, they are just crystals containing information. I'm surprised Nature's editor didn't catch that...

What... (1)

Naatach (574111) | about 9 months ago | (#46391413)

could possibly go wrong?

Why bother optimising for size (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 9 months ago | (#46391423)

Beh. You can be the size of a basketball if you plan on infecting these beasties [slashdot.org]

Now we finally know.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46391477)

Where the Stuxnet virus came from...

We were warned (2)

grimStone (3536793) | about 9 months ago | (#46391515)

I seem to recall something similar happening on X-Files, Stargate, and Fringe. It didn't turn out so well.

Re:We were warned (1)

bobstreo (1320787) | about 9 months ago | (#46391551)

I seem to recall something similar happening on X-Files, Stargate, and Fringe. It didn't turn out so well.

and Helix.

Re:We were warned (1)

grimStone (3536793) | about 9 months ago | (#46391581)

I seem to recall something similar happening on X-Files, Stargate, and Fringe. It didn't turn out so well.

and Helix.

and Thing.

Re:We were warned (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46391881)

I seem to recall something similar happening on X-Files, Stargate, and Fringe. It didn't turn out so well.

Don't forget about Star Trek: Voyager. [youtube.com] (Or maybe you do want to forget.)

Re:We were warned (1)

tenco (773732) | about 9 months ago | (#46393515)

If only they had Kathryn and an EMH [memory-alpha.org] ...

in prehistoric Russia (5, Funny)

zlives (2009072) | about 9 months ago | (#46391517)

the virus catches you

Re:in prehistoric Russia (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 9 months ago | (#46392215)

Well done.

I think I've... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 9 months ago | (#46391525)

...seen that movie [imdb.com] .

Re:I think I've... (4, Interesting)

Xiver (13712) | about 9 months ago | (#46391779)

If you like The Thing then read this. [clarkesworldmagazine.com] It is a short story from The Thing's point of view.

Re:I think I've... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 9 months ago | (#46394815)

Also consider "Blood Glacier", a German film about a hostile microbe that escapes a thawing glacier. It's a shameless Thing derivative but the puppet effects are a lot of fun.

So this is coding (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46391537)

Code bloat! Nature finally optimized for the present day.

Over compacted, under compacted ... (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 9 months ago | (#46391583)

Jean-Michel Claverie: 'We thought it was a property of viruses that they pack DNA extremely tightly into the smallest particle possible, but this guy is 150 times less compacted than any bacteriophage [viruses that infect bacteria].

I am sure this scientist is going to be perplexed by this too. this [wikipedia.org] . I expect him to say, "I expect the human torso to be kind of roundish in cross section and two hands hanging by the side. But this guy is over compacted. We don't understand any thing anymore."

Re:Over compacted, under compacted ... (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 9 months ago | (#46391933)

Could be springs don't wind tightly when they're stored at very very cold temps for tens of thousands of years.

That said, this should not impact the viability of virii.

They just look bigger.

Re:Over compacted, under compacted ... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 9 months ago | (#46394817)

It's a live, reproducing virus. They know what it looks like when it's fresh.

We don't understand anything anymore! (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 9 months ago | (#46391653)

Beautiful, beautiful words from a scientific perspective.

Re:We don't understand anything anymore! (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#46391801)

Taken out of context and going to be used by idiots to prop up the god damn false dichotomy.

Re:We don't understand anything anymore! (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 9 months ago | (#46392717)

Taken out of context and going to be used by idiots to prop up the god damn false dichotomy.

If we're lucky, real lucky, the age of this -phage will be used against idiots who prop up the damn false god dichotomy.

Re:We don't understand anything anymore! (1)

narcc (412956) | about 9 months ago | (#46394211)

Yes, because if we know anything it's that you need to lie to people about science because a few nutters might post nonsense on the internet.

Re:We don't understand anything anymore! (1)

neo8750 (566137) | about 9 months ago | (#46394847)

because a few nutters might post nonsense on the internet.

But if its on the internet it must be true!

Oh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46391679)

What could possibly go wrong, right?

We'll see (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46391741)

Let me know how things are going 28 days later.

virus fossilization (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 9 months ago | (#46391765)

The size could be the result of the process of being packed in ice for long periods of time. Some sort of virus fossilization where the virus dna gains dna from its prehistoric host.

The first known... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46391783)

sabertoothed virus!

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46391785)

So no one who commented even bothered to read the SUMMARY? Is the internet full of fruit flies? THIS VIRUS CANNOT ATTACK MAMMALS, IT GOES FOR AMOEBAE YOU ILLITERATE ADHD PATIENTS!

Re:Wow (5, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 9 months ago | (#46392343)

So no one who commented even bothered to read the SUMMARY? Is the internet full of fruit flies? THIS VIRUS CANNOT ATTACK MAMMALS, IT GOES FOR AMOEBAE YOU ILLITERATE ADHD PATIENTS!

Then how come we haven't heard from the researchers for the past couple of weeks?

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46394993)

They finally dug down to the giant amoebae

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46394099)

So no one who commented even bothered to read the SUMMARY? Is the internet full of fruit flies? THIS VIRUS CANNOT ATTACK MAMMALS, IT GOES FOR AMOEBAE YOU ILLITERATE ADHD PATIENTS!

At least that's what they think. But they also didn't think virii could be this big...

lol (4, Funny)

hamburger lady (218108) | about 9 months ago | (#46391789)

"We don't understand anything anymore!" says the guy reviving a 30,000 year-old virus. sheesh.

Re:lol (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46393943)

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we understand, there are understood understoodables; there are things we understand that we understand. There are understood nonunderstoodables; that is to say, there are things that we now understand we don't understand. But there are also nonunderstood nonunderstoodables – there are things we do not understand we don't understand."

Re: lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46394295)

You should get moded up for this...nice very nice.

Re: lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46394983)

You see the same video of a guy running out of a mosque with a vase 100 times and you think, my god, can there possibly be that many vases in the entire country

I've got nothing.

OMG Helix! (1)

newdsfornerds (899401) | about 9 months ago | (#46391799)

The crappy Resident Evil knock-off.

Re:OMG Helix! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46395023)

Helix isn't a knock-off, it's a charming parody! It's survival horror set to easy listening jazz. The soundtrack dissonance alone makes Helix worth watching.

What could possibly go OMG ZOMBIES (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 9 months ago | (#46391919)

Hmm.

I wonder if it's safe.

Wonderful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46391985)

So this is how the zombie apocalypse starts.

Well, I for one welcome our 30k year old over sized virus overlords.

30,000 years old? (5, Insightful)

Zaiff Urgulbunger (591514) | about 9 months ago | (#46392031)

I'm surprised this thing is very different to modern viruses given that it's *only* 30K years old. I appreciate these things are always evolving, but I would've thought they'd have done most of their evolving in the previous 3-billion years or whatever. So presumably, being big wasn't a problem for a virus until relatively recently?

Re:30,000 years old? (4, Insightful)

Mortiss (812218) | about 9 months ago | (#46392191)

Well, these viruses may have found a relatively safe niche in a biosphere, where large genome is not a huge disadvantage and simply stayed that way. These giant viruses (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimivirus) seem to have acquired a large number of metabolic genes from their hosts, which in case of human viruses would be very disadvantageous, since in this environment large = easier to detect and eradicate.

Re:30,000 years old? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46393439)

I'm surprised this thing is very different to modern viruses given that it's *only* 30K years old. I appreciate these things are always evolving, but I would've thought they'd have done most of their evolving in the previous 3-billion years or whatever. So presumably, being big wasn't a problem for a virus until relatively recently?

You're displaying your ignorance I'm afraid, and I don't mean that disparagingly. Viruses are short lived and the number of copies that reproduce is huge. That makes (at least some of) them ideal for studying evolution in short time spans. HIV/AIDS is a key one for studying evolution.

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/relevance/IA2HIV.shtml

Has anybody asked.... (2)

BenJeremy (181303) | about 9 months ago | (#46392065)

...what could possibly go wrong? Because, that simply can't be asked too many times, right?

Ugh.

It will actually turn out that this virus will simultaneously cure cancer and all known diseases in humans. They'll call it the Ponce de Leon infection as it also stops and even reverses the effects of old age, and will result in a sharp drop in mortality rates and a rapid increase in population.

Eventually, the Earth's population of humans will outstrip its ability to support them.

Then the real carnage begins.

Re:Has anybody asked.... (1)

koan (80826) | about 9 months ago | (#46392417)

...what could possibly go wrong?

I wish someone would have asked that about Google Glass.

Already happened in Star Trek (1)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 9 months ago | (#46393683)

Captain Kirk already visited such a planet with no disease and no death that had dramatic overpopulation

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]

Mumbai, India has 33,000 people per square km, which makes places with only really high population density like London (8500 people per square km) seem sparsely populated.

We don't know why it isn't densely packed. (4, Interesting)

Chas (5144) | about 9 months ago | (#46392219)

It's possible that this one was warped by its environment.
Another possibility is that we're looking at a sign of evolution here.

It's possible that 30,000 years ago, the environment (and carriers) could support the existence of larger, loosely packed viruses.

Then with the advance of medicine and sanitation (and possibly changes in climate), that behemoths like this simply weren't viable anymore. They were too fragile (or just too obviously large) to withstand the immune responses in healthier, cleaner hosts.

As such, these oversized viruses died off the same way various megafauna did. Their ecological niche was either stressed (or closed). Thus the only survivors were smaller, more compact variants.

Re:We don't know why it isn't densely packed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46392747)

It's possible that 30,000 years ago, the environment (and carriers) could support the existence of larger, loosely packed viruses.

Not only support, it might have given them a benefit. My first thought goes to conifer trees. Normally trees lose their leaves when there is a risk of ice forming in them. Conifers will not lose their leaves. Instead they have extra room in their "leaves". If ice forms inside, it will have room to expand without breaking anything. When spring comes, the ice will melt and the tree is unharmed.

I imagine the ability to be frozen and unfrozen without dying could be a good one during an ice age. After the ice age this ability would no longer be needed and the price paid to have this ability killed it as competition didn't have to pay that price.

Sure it's just my own personal theory based on a hunch (not really scientific), but I don't go around saying "I don't understand anything anymore". Perhaps being an engineer I will be more likely to think of a physical/mechanical explanation than a biologist would.

Re:We don't know why it isn't densely packed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46393053)

While those are possibilities, which I'm sure will be explored, the prime comment still stands.

We don't understand anything anymore

I think it would be approriate, given cultural and fictional accounts around such a scenario, that while humanities education is growing extensively every daily, we're still quite ignorant. Of A LOT! Especially when the historical evolution of diseases is involved!

Large Single Cell Organisms (1)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 9 months ago | (#46393729)

There are single celled organisms at the bottom of the ocean, xenophyophores are one example, that are single-cell creatures visible to the human eye --- and in fact larger than a centimeter.

It should come as no surprise there are giant viruses in more primitive times, more primitive times are alive and well in the ancient creatures that live in the deepest parts of the oceans.

"we don't understand anything anymore" (1)

koan (80826) | about 9 months ago | (#46392405)

Obviously... when you're digging up 30,000 year old virus, right about the same time the Neanderthal disappeared.

Re:"we don't understand anything anymore" (2)

Natural Philosopher (3535515) | about 9 months ago | (#46392741)

I'm no biologist, but... don't viruses mutate quickly and unpredictably? And perhaps into a strain that is able to infect mammals?

Re:"we don't understand anything anymore" (1)

koan (80826) | about 9 months ago | (#46392865)

They can, it always makes me nervous when they pull these things out of the ice or attempt to "recreate" them.

Re:"we don't understand anything anymore" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46394389)

From the FA

But Suttle points out that people already inhale thousands of viruses every day, and swallow billions whenever they swim in the sea. The idea that melting ice would release harmful viruses, and that those viruses would circulate extensively enough to affect human health, “stretches scientific rationality to the breaking point”, he says. “I would be much more concerned about the hundreds of millions of people who will be displaced by rising sea levels.”
The idea that melting ice would release harmful viruses, and that those viruses would circulate extensively enough to affect human health, “stretches scientific rationality to the breaking point”, he says. “I would be much more concerned about the hundreds of millions of people who will be displaced by rising sea levels.”'

The last guy sounds like an overconfident fool (famous last words). Anyway, if the greenhouse effect was real why did the Magellan probe discover that the pressure/temperature ratio on Venus is exactly proportional to that found for Earth's troposphere (corrected for distance from the Sun)? It doesn't make much sense. I expect some "We don’t understand anything anymore!” coming from that crowd soon.

"...150 times less compacted..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46393491)

Just what do people think they mean when they write shit like this?

1/150th as dense?
0.66% space/material efficient?
150 * the size?

Natural selection wiped this one out (1)

greggster (1712144) | about 9 months ago | (#46393757)

and humans go and bring it back. This oughtta be good. Lets hope this tinkering with disaster is handled correctly, or shaved, sterilized and destroyed.

That's funny... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46394061)

Revive? How do you revive something that is inanimate matter?
Oh! That's right!!! For evolution to be correct then viruses have to alive.
Smallest unit of life is the cell.

Do we have to freak out? (0)

Fourgaver (3511135) | about 9 months ago | (#46394131)

What IF? What will Happened? What should YOU gonna do? and What we should have to do? How to prevent? how to protect? I think every questions goes like that! The name itself viral! It will infect. Do we have to be scared of? :(

Stop now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46394249)

Stop the tech before it's too late we don't have enough antibiotics or anti viral as it is let something go that we have no knowledge of and it is Pandoras box I beg you quit now

Where's the surprise? (2)

JockTroll (996521) | about 9 months ago | (#46394715)

Of course it's less packed. They didn't have compression algorhytims back then. It's an obsolete virus anyway, I bet it can't run on any modern animal's OS.

Black Death 2? (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about 9 months ago | (#46396473)

Supposedly, the Black Death came to Europe from the Crimea and/or further east near China. Look how well that worked out.
It's interesting that while a lot of super scary viruses originated in sub-Saharan Africa, there are other origin places with radically different environmental conditions.

Neuromancer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46397281)

It must be the Chinese icebreaker, but it was too slow a virus and frozen into the ice...

And The name is.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46397547)

Lots call it "The Thing"

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