Scientists dig up giant virus more than 30,000 years old

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SIBERIA –  Scientists have unearthed a giant virus more than 30,000 years old from the frozen soil in a remote region of Siberia.

While this ancient virus is harmless to people, the scientists behind the discovery warn that the discovery suggests that the thawing of permafrost in polar regions, as a result of either climate change or mining, could bring threats to human health.

The ancient virus, named Pithovirus sibericum, infects amoebas, not humans or animals.

It survived in the Siberian ice from a period when woolly mammoths and saber-tooth cats roamed the earth.

The scientists found it in the Chukotka Autonomous Region, the most northeasterly region of Russia, which lies across the Bering Strait from Alaska.

Its discovery was reported by the researchers, from French and Russian institutions, in an article published this week by the U.S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.