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Oh great, this ancient virus might reveal one more way climate change can kill us all

A team of French scientists has revived a 30,000-year-old ancient virus found deep beneath the Siberian permafrost.

Siberia russia tundra permafrost ancient virusEnlarge
An aerial view of ruts from geological survey vehicles through tundra in Siberia in this June 2006 file photo. (MAXIM MARMUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Obviously these scientists haven’t watched enough movies.

In what we can only suggest is Hollywood foreshadowing come to life in frightening Technicolor, a team of French researchers has revived a 30,000-year-old virus found buried deep beneath Siberian permafrost.

This previously unknown virus — Pithovirus sibericum — is so large it’s viewable through a visible light microscope. It’s the largest ever discovered, BBC reported.

Don’t worry, they say, the resulting infection produced by the virus only affects one-celled amoebas … for now.

OK, that last part was dramatic license, but if you’ve watched any B-movie about aliens or diseases threatening life after eons unseen, you probably have to wonder why these intrepid intellectuals have taken such a drastic action.

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Turns out, this virus is just one more result of climate change, and in all seriousness could one day affect our world.

“The revival of such an ancestral amoeba infecting virus … suggests that the thawing of permafrost either from global warming or industrial exploitation of circumpolar regions might not be exempt from future threats to human or animal health,” lead researcher Jean-Michel Claverie wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Why this is making headlines across the globe is the unique nature of this new virus, The New York Times reported.

While the common flu virus has 13 genes and measures 100 nanometers across, typical giant viruses are 1,000 times larger.

Can they infect humans? So far, giant viruses haven’t posed much threat.

Yet, Claverie warned that this could be a precursor to greater discoveries that do threaten larger life forms.

What if, he said, an ancient version of small pox or some other dastardly disease is revived as we continue to exploit thawing permafrost?

“If it is true that these viruses survive in the same way those amoeba viruses survive, then smallpox is not eradicated from the planet — only the surface,” Calverie told BBC. “By going deeper we may reactivate the possibility that smallpox could become again a disease of humans in modern times.”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/global-warming/140304/oh-great-ancient-virus-might-reveal-one-more-way-climate