ALERT: Virus more than a decade old emerges from Tibetan ice

The accelerated melting of glaciers in Tibet is revealing microbial secrets from ages past, bringing to light viruses fossilized 15,000 years ago.

Led by Ohio State University microbiologist Zhi-Ping Zhong, a study published in the journal Microbiome uncovers the surprising findings of ice samples from the Guliya ice cap, located 6.7 kilometers above sea level on the Tibetan Plateau.

Alert to the challenges of climate change

Using advanced sampling and sequencing techniques, the study overcame challenges such as low biomass and contamination, revealing information about microbial diversity and climate adaptations over the millennia.

Low-input quantitative sequencing identified 33 unique viral taxonomic units, opening new perspectives in understanding viral genetic variability in glacial environments.

Mountains of Tibet – Image: AFP/Greenpeace/Reproduction

The 15,000-year-old virus’s intriguing genetic history reveals an association with bacteriophages that infect Methylobacteriumessential for the methane cycle.

The functional annotation of the genome suggests a role in nutrient acquisition for hosts, highlighting the complexity of interactions between microbes and viruses in these frigid environments.

In addition to these surprising scientific revelations, the study highlights the urgency of understanding the implications of glacial melt.

Not only because of the loss of old microbes and viruses, but also because of the potential risk of releasing infectious agents in the future.

With the context of the recent Covid-19 pandemic, the concern goes beyond human health, encompassing enormous reserves of methane and carbon released by melting ice, which represents a significant risk to the environmental balance.

By exploring the unknown, this dive into the depths of Tibet’s ice not only reveals microbial secrets from ages past, but also highlights the importance of preserving such ecosystems crucial to global balance.

The research is not just a look into the past, but also an urgent reminder of the contemporary challenges we face amidst the climate changes global.

In relation :  How to Create Your Own WhatsApp Stickers
Moyens I/O Staff has motivated you, giving you tips on technology, personal development, lifestyle and strategies that will help you.