1. News

Scientists Find Ancient Viruses Dating Back 15000 Years in Tibetan Glacier

Shivam Dwivedi
Shivam Dwivedi
Thick Ice-cover

Almost in every phase of history, we have existed side by side with viruses and bacteria. Either its plague or smallpox, we have evolved to resist them effectively, but in response, they have developed newer ways of infecting us. 

As we know, we have had antibiotics doses for almost a century, ever since Alexander Fleming invented Penicillin. To counter this, bacteria have responded by evolving antibiotic resistance and turning into 'Superbugs' and this battle is endless. 

Just imagine, what would happen if we were suddenly exposed to deadly bacteria and viruses that we haven't seen for thousands of years, or we have never met before? 

With the effect of Climate change, ice is melting that were frozen for thousands of years, and are releasing ancient viruses and bacteria. 

Recent Discovery:  

  • Recently scientists have found an unknown virus as earlier as 15000 years in ice samples collected from a glacier in the Tibetan plateau according to a study published earlier this week in the journal 'Microbiome'. 

  • A team including microbiologists and climate scientists from Ohio State University took two ice cores from the top of the Guliya ice cap, at 22,000 feet above sea level, in western China in 2015. These ice core was 1,017 feet deep, the study's lead author, microbiologist Zhiping Zhong, said on Thursday. It was then cut into sections 3 feet long and 4 inches in diameter.

  • After analyzing the samples of ice team found 33 viruses, at least 28 of which were previously unknown to science and had survived as they were frozen. 

  • The origin of these viruses could be soil or plants, rather than with humans or animals, and would have been familiar to extreme weather conditions, as per the study  

  • Right now, very little is known about these viruses found in glaciers, but this field is growing in significance as ice around the world melts due to climate change. 

  • "It's really capturing the public eye," said Thompson, who added that the Covid-19 pandemic has raised awareness of the importance of learning about microbial communities.


Co-author Matthew Sullivan, professor of microbiology at Ohio State and director of the university's Center of Microbiome Science, said the methods used in the study permits scientists to analyze the evolutionary pace of viruses that are present in varied layers of the ice cores. 

Like this article?

Hey! I am Shivam Dwivedi. Did you liked this article and have suggestions to improve this article? Mail me your suggestions and feedback.

Share your comments

Subscribe to our Newsletter. You choose the topics of your interest and we'll send you handpicked news and latest updates based on your choice.

Subscribe Newsletters