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Viruses on Ice

Within ice cores taken from a Tibetan glacier, researchers have uncovered more than two dozen previously unknown virus groups, LiveScience reports.

In a preprint posted to BioRxiv, researchers from Ohio State University describe their analysis of microbes and viruses from two ice cores. They note that the two cores harbored different populations of microbes and viruses, which they attributed to differences in climatic conditions when the ice formed. Using viral metagenomics approaches, they identified 33 viral populations and 28 novel viral genera.

"We are very far from sampling the entire diversity of viruses on Earth," Chantal Abergel, from the French National Centre for Scientific Research who was not involved in the work, tells Vice.

As glaciers around the world melt, the researchers write in their preprint that the information they contain may be lost or released. "At a minimum, this could lead to the loss of microbial and viral archives that could be diagnostic and informative of past Earth climate regimes; however, in a worst-case scenario, this ice melt could release pathogens into the environment," they add.