Russian scientists want to awaken a virus from a mammoth

Russian scientists of State Research Vector Center for Virology and Biotechnology, intends to extract cellular material from the mummified body of a Siberian mammoth

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Russian scientists want to awaken a virus from a mammoth

Jean-Michel Claverie, a professor of microbiology at the University of Aix-Marseille in France, is alarmed that the Russians are trying to extract the DNA of a long-dormant paleovirus. Claverie has extracted viruses that can only infect single-celled amoeba.

His viruses do not threaten animals or humans. He told: "The research Vector's Russian colleagues are doing is terrible. I'm totally against it. It's very, very risky. Our immune system has never encountered this kind of virus. Some of them could be 200,000 or even 400,000 years old.

And as archaic as they are, ancient viruses that infected animals or humans may still be capable of developing infection, endangering global wildlife and our very survival."

Why do Russian scientists want to awaken a dangerous virus from a mammoth?

Russian scientists of State Research Vector Center for Virology and Biotechnology, intends to extract cellular material from the mummified body of a Siberian mammoth, to extract the viruses that led to the animal's death.

These viruses could be very dangerous for the human species and cause a new possible pandemic. Beginning in 1979, one of Vector's subsidiaries was used as a biological weapons production facility for use in the Afghan war.

During the Soviet era, the center accidentally released spores of deadly anthrax bacteria. The ensuing anthrax outbreak killed at least 66 people living around the area. The main structure of Vector houses one of the largest biolaboratories in the world and hundreds of geneticists and biologists work inside it, officially employed for the development of biotechnologies useful for combating Covid-19.

Anthrax spores can, among other things, survive in frozen human and animal remains for hundreds of thousands of years, waiting to be released, according to Alexey Kokorin, director of the climate and energy program at WWF Russia.

He also saw how Russia represents the largest Arctic state, economic and technological development related to climate change and the reduction of sea ice.