A glacier located in the Tibetan Plateau of China hosts a deadly cargo in the form of a selection of ancient viruses that puzzle modern researchers. The viruses were uncovered during a recent study that involved the harvesting of two ice cores from the Tibetan glacier, and 28 virus groups have been observed.
By investigating these viruses, the researchers could learn more about the way in which viruses lived in different climates and evolved throughout the years.
A worst-case scenario involves the release of these viruses as ice melts, unleashing new potentially powerful pathogens across the world. The task of studying microbes stored in ice cores is quite daunting due to a variety of factors.
One of the stems from the fact that it is quite easy to contaminate the ice core samples with modern bacteria. To prevent such an event, the researchers had to implement a strict protocol for clean microbial and viral sampling.
The Tibetan Plateau Glacier Meltdown Unearthed Ancient Viruses
It is worth noting that the two samples used by the researchers have been collected from the plateau in 1992 and 2015. However, at that point in time, unique contamination prevention methods to avoid potential risks weren’t implemented.
The inner sections of the cores remained intact, and the researchers took them to a room with a low temperature to prevent melting. A sterilized band saw was used to remove a part of the outer layer. The process continued with the use of ethanol and sterile water to reach the clean sheet of ice that was usable for the study.
Between the two samples, the selection of virus groups was quite different, and it is believed that this can be linked to different climate conditions when the freezing process took place.
As climate change continues to influence the world, more glaciers will start to melt, releasing some of the secrets stored within. The study was published in a scientific journal.