Recent reports indicate that a giant virus has been recently reactivated, bringing scientists to the conclusion that global warming can potentially unleash frozen viruses as ice caps melt. Pithovirus sibercum is the largest virus ever discovered with a length measuring 1.5 micrometers–almost the size of a bacterium. This virus is known to attack amoebae, but there are other implications to this discovery some scientists have reported.
Christelle Desnues, a french virologist from the National Center for Scientific Research, discovered last year a young boy, age 11-months, was infected by a giant virus called Marseillevirus. He was hospitalized with swollen lymph nodes. The virus was found in a node with its DNA spread throughout the boy’s blood.
Biologist, Jean-Michel Claverie and his colleague (and wife) Chantal Abergel, believe there are more implications involved. They are concerned that global warming and the reports seen in the Arctic, could thaw out many more viruses that could pose a great threat to humans.
Virologist, Curtis Suttle with the University of British Columbia, is not as concerned, stating humans inhale and swallow thousands of viruses every day, and billions whenever they swim in the sea. He believes that viruses in polar ice caps would have to swim or be carried an extensive distance which really is a stretch to “scientific rational.” Suttle believes a bigger concern involves the hundreds of millions of people who will become displaced by the rise in sea levels.
An organism once referred to as New Life Form (NLF), and now categorized as a Pandoravirus, was discovered off the coast of Chile where it was also found attacking amoebae. A similar organism was found in a small pond in Australia, surprisingly, the largest found until the Pithovirus was discovered. Only 7 percent of these virus’ genes match existing DNA in any database.
Desnues says these viruses are a major discovery which substantially expand scientific knowledge on viral diversity. Vlaverie and Abergel were with the first group to discover the Mimivirus and Megavirus chilensis, which also came from the waters close to Chile, indicating the extent of global warming. The widespread locations of these discoveries explains how these viruses are really anywhere and might be discovered in an unexpected environment. It has been reported that many scientists have, and are still expected to, mistake these giant viruses as parasitic or symbiotic bacteria, especially due to their magnitude.
According to Marshall Brain, founder of HowStuffWorks, over the past 100 years Earth’s temperature has increased about half a degree Celsius. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims that the sea level has risen six to eight inches during this time. Brain believes the polar ice bergs will not actually make the ocean level rise because of the displacement needed to keep them afloat, which must be the equal weight of that to an iceberg, but some believe the actual polar ice caps themselves have the potential of melting and adding more water to ocean bodies. As more dangerous viruses are being reported, global warming continues to be a hot topic for all environmentalists and researchers.
By Lindsey Alexander