July 24, 2021
(STUDY FINDS) – Glaciers can preserve all sorts of relics from the distant past. So could they also be home to a pandemic from prehistoric times as well? It’s possible. A team from The Ohio State University has discovered a collection of viruses that have never been seen before in the ice of a glacier in China.
Scientists say the viral samples date back nearly 15,000 years and may reveal how pathogens evolve over the centuries. Of the 33 viruses found trapped in the ice of the Tibetan Plateau, the team considers 28 to be completely novel. About half of them also seem to have survived specifically because of the freezing conditions.
“These glaciers were formed gradually, and along with dust and gases, many, many viruses were also deposited in that ice,” says lead author Zhi-Ping Zhong, a researcher at Ohio State’s Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, in a university release. “The glaciers in western China are not well-studied, and our goal is to use this information to reflect past environments. And viruses are a part of those environments.”