Ancient Virus Revived From 700-Year-Old Caribou Feces

 

 

 

 

 

” Researchers have reconstituted a viral genome from centuries-old caribou feces frozen in the subarctic, and they’ve used the ancient viruses to infect lab plants. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, offer a rare glimpse of viral evolution. 

  Ancient viruses provide snapshots of past diversity and a way to trace viral evolution, but their concentrations are low and intact samples are rarely successfully isolated from the environment. Cryogenically preserved samples in nature may be an untapped repository of preserved ancient viral genetic material. 

  A team led by Eric Delwart from the University of California, San Francisco, analyzed viral genetic material contained in an ice core obtained by drilling through layers of accumulated caribou feces up to 4,000 years old in a permanent ice patch in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Caribou gather on ice patches to escape pesky flying insects and heat in the summertime. After eating nearby veggies, they deposit feces that contain their DNA, partially digested plant material, as well as viruses—which can remain frozen for millennia.”

 

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