As the world works to control the spread of a deadly coronavirus in China, scientists are studying unknown, 15,000-year-old viruses that have always been locked in a glacier on the northwestern Tibetan Plateau of China, according to Live Science.
Back in 2015, an global team of researchers traveled to the Guliya ice cap on the northwestern Tibetan Plateau to study ancient viruses. In a new paper published on bioXiv, researchers studying these icy needles revealed over 30 virus groups were discovered, 28 of those brand new to science.
A total of 33 virus groups were discovered in two ice core samples taken from the Guliya ice cap on the Tibetan Plateau, according to a paper posted on bioRxiv on January 7. In such an event, it's best to know as much about these long-dormant viruses as possible, the researchers wrote.
Sampling ice cores is no easy feat. Samples were then examined for the presence of microorganisms, and the researchers found a total of 33 types of viruses, 28 of which were completely new to science.
Drilling 50 meters (164 feet) deep into the 15,000-year-old ice, they took two core samples to study the microbes within. So, the exteriors were contaminated but the insides of the samples were still in mint condition.
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"The microbes differed significantly across the two ice cores, presumably representing the very different climate conditions at the time of deposition that is similar to findings in other cores", the researchers wrote, claiming the experiment will help to establish a baseline for glacier viruses.Hence, scientists employed a new method to study microbes preserved within the ice for ultraclean microbial and viral sampling, according to LiveScience.
Then, the team used ethanol to wash and melt another 0.2 inches of ice and then sterile water to wash another 0.2 inches.
The team was able to access the samples by gradually getting rid of the outer layers of ice by various methods.
The researchers in their paper explained, "At a minimum, this could lead to the loss of microbial and viral archives that could be diagnostic and informative of past Earth climate regimes; however, in a worst-case scenario, this ice melt could release pathogens into the environment".