Curiosity may not have killed the cat but Mollivirus siberium might have . . . and might still. Scientists are about to “wake up” a 30,000-year-old virus found in the melting permafrost. They published their plan in in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal. What could possible go wrong, right? Just the plot of a dozen horror films.
There is actually a very good reason to go prodding ancient viruses in the lab that have been frozen since the last Ice Age. The team from the French National Centre for Scientific Research want to learn more about these viruses because, with climate change, they may soon be back in our environment with lethal effect. This is a “giant” virus because it is so big that it can be seen with just light microscopy. What is also amazing is that Mollivirus sibericum carries a complex genetic structure with more than 500 genes. As a point of comparison, the influenza virus has only 8 genes.
If that does not freak you out enough, they have a second 30,000-year-old virus, Pithovirus sibericum, in the same Russian permafrost. Last year, they discovered that Pithovirus sibericum is still infectious. Someone call Wolfgang Petersen. This screen play is writing itself.