Student Discovers Unknown Ice Age Virus In Indiana Cave

Posted by on May 10th, 2011

Students in the Introduction To Biotechnology (IT220) class at Purdue were instructed for one of their projects to collect soil samples as part of the National Genomics Research Initiative. Most of the students were content to collect samples from around the Purdue campus, but Emilia Czyszczon traveled 3 hours to a remote Indiana cave and then took a boat on an underground river to a spot deep within the cave. The soil sample that Emilia ended up taking turned out to be glacial mud untouched since the ice age and contained a bacteriophage virus that was unknown to science. Scientists think that this virus might be beneficial to humans and could be used to fight diseases like tuberculosis.

Further analysis proved to be even more remarkable. Lurking in the dank sample of cave mud she collected was a virus previously unknown to science — a bacteriophage that attacks bacteria from the same family as those that cause tuberculosis.

In other words, despite the usual connotation associated with the discovery of a virus, this virus is not harmful to humans. Rather, just the opposite: it is a virus that attacks bacterial strains that could be harmful to humans. The discovery has prompted the adventurous young Czyszczon to look ahead in her career; she has already received grant money to probe into the DNA of the virus to help find alternative cures for debilitating diseases like tuberculosis.

[Chicago Tribune via MNN]

One Response to “Student Discovers Unknown Ice Age Virus In Indiana Cave”

  1. Anthony Says:

    Its the I Am Legend Virus!