Virus Glacier Research Ice Tibet
Photo credit: Lonnie Thompson
A team of researchers and scientists who study glacier ice have discovered viruses that have been frozen for 15,000-years in two samples taken from the Tibetan Plateau in China. The cores are collected at high altitudes, or the summit of Guliya, which is 22,000 feet above sea level, and contain layers of ice that accumulate over the years, trapping whatever was in the atmosphere around them at the time each layer froze. Read more for a video and additional information.



These ice layers create a timeline that helps researchers learn more about climate change, microbes, viruses and gases throughout history. The team determined that the ice was nearly 15,000 years old using a combination of traditional as well as innovative new novel techniques to date this ice core. When the ice was analyzed, they found genetic codes for 33 viruses, with four having already been identified by the scientific community and twenty eight of them novel.

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These are viruses that would have thrived in extreme environments. These viruses have signatures of genes that help them infect cells in cold environments – just surreal genetic signatures for how a virus is able to survive in extreme conditions. These are not easy signatures to pull out, and the method that Zhi-Ping developed to decontaminate the cores and to study microbes and viruses in ice could help us search for these genetic sequences in other extreme icy environments,” said Matthew Sullivan, co-author of the study, professor of microbiology at Ohio State and director of Ohio State’s Center of Microbiome Science.