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Scientists revived an ancient zombie virus that was frozen for 48,500 years

Updated Mar 9th, 2023 1:01PM EST
3d rendered HIV Virus

An ancient zombie virus has been revived after being frozen for almost 50,000 years. The virus was found along with six others in the Siberian permafrost. The youngest frozen virus clocked in at 27,000 years old, while the oldest was 48,5000 years old, making it the most ancient of the viruses scientists have revived thus far.

Reviving an ancient zombie virus might seem like a terrible idea, but the scientist did so in a controlled laboratory. And, while dangerous, the viruses could help us prepare for pandemic-level issues as the permafrost thaws. With the ongoing threat that climate change poses to our world and the permafrost around the globe, being prepared is paramount.

Researchers discovered the 48,500-year-old virus at the bottom of a lake in Yukechi Alas in Yakutia, Russia. The ancient zombie virus they revived is a pandoravirus, sometimes called giant viruses. These viruses only infect single-cell organisms. As such, they can’t infect humans or animals.

All the viruses found so far appear to be these pandoraviruses, and based on experiments, they are all active and replicating in the test subjects.

scientists examines unknown bacteria / ancient virus revived in labImage source: Rafe Swan / Getty Images

This information could help us better prepare for future infectious viruses being released as the permafrost melts. If these giant viruses are still alive after thousands of years, then it stands to reason that other viruses may be as well. That means the risk of other ancient zombie viruses being revived in the wild and infecting people or animals is plausible as they unfreeze.

The researchers originally published data on the ancient viruses on the server bioRxiv. A new paper on the findings has also been accepted and published in the journal Virus. Previously scientists also discovered ancient never-before-seen viruses in glaciers, which could be released as those ice shelves melt.

Editors note: This article was updated on March 9, 2023, to provide additional resources and information about the discovered viruses.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.