Viruses nearly 15,000 years old were found in ice samples taken from the Tibetan Plateau in China


An interdisciplinary study developed by Ohio State’s Byrd Center and its Center for Microbiome Science have found viruses nearly 15,000 years old in two ice samples taken from the Tibetan Plateau in China, which survived because they remained frozen. The summit of Guliya, where this ice originated, is 22,000 feet above sea level. “These glaciers were formed gradually, and along with dust and gases, many, many viruses were also deposited in that ice,” said Zhi-Ping Zhong, lead author of the study and a researcher at The Ohio State University Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center. Researchrts found genetic codes for 33 viruses. At least 28 of them are novel. The study of viruses in glaciers is relatively new. “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 — Mars, for example, the moon, or closer to home in Earth’s Atacama Desert,” said Matthew Sullivan, co-author of the study.


The researchers’ analysis showed that the viruses likely originated with soil or plants, not with animals or humans. There is a hope to answer, between others, to realistic questions: How do bacteria and viruses respond to climate change? How much important is this for us ?