National Geographic is running a story about a team from Aix-Marseille University that has discovered a previously unknown giant virus similar to Pandoravirus, buried for over 30,000 years in Siberian permafrost. If that wasn’t cool enough (pun… intended), they could get the virus to infect amoeba back in the lab.
Whilst it makes me slightly sad that the article descends into “BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS RISK TO HUMANS?”, I understand. The idea of a rare virus that destroys all humanity isn’t exactly hard to find in our culture. And whilst I do agree with the researchers (who made sure to test that the virus didn’t infect animal or human cells) that you have to be open to the possibility of finding a virus that is dangerous, it seems a shame to focus on that as the main story.
Quote from the article:
“The idea would make a great movie but is extremely unlikely unless the virus came from a frozen human being who possibly died from a virus that is no longer in circulation. A very small proportion [of the viruses on Earth] represent viruses that can infect mammals and an even smaller proportion pose any risk to humans.” – Edward Mocarski of Emory University.
Viruses are absolutely everywhere. We should be careful when we go looking for them, but we shouldn’t only be interested in them if they can infect us.