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When you find an ancient dead virus deep in the ground in Siberia, you've got to find a way to bring it back to life. That's like Mad Science 101.

The AFP reports a group of French researchers are planning to re-animate the 30,0000-year-old Mollivirus sibericum virus discovered beneath the Siberian permafrost.

It's a strange pathogen, at least by modern standards. It's much larger than a typical virus at .6 microns, meaning it can be viewed with a regular microscope. The AFP reports it has way more genes than a typical virus, at about 500. In comparison, Influenza A only has eight genes.

The Mollivirus Siberium, via PNAS

The researchers plan to first determine whether or not the virus poses a threat to humans or animals. If it's safe, they will inject the virus into an amoeba host to incubate and revive it.


This may sound like the plot of The X-Files movie, but it's important work. The virus is one of many species believed to be buried beneath the Siberian permafrost, which is a lot less "perma" than it used to be, thanks to global warming, as well as growing industrial activity in the region.

The next great pandemic could be lurking beneath the tundra, waiting for a strong heat wave to be released, so researchers want to get an idea now if these viruses pose a threat to present-day humans or animals.

That still sounds like The X-Files, but this time the Smoking Man is on our side.


Patrick Hogan is a reporter for Fusion based out of New York. E-mail at