health-related fact checks

FACT CHECK: ‘Zombie’ virus refers to resurrected virus, not its effect

Rappler.com
FACT CHECK: ‘Zombie’ virus refers to resurrected virus, not its effect
The viruses discovered pose no infection risk to humans or animals

Claim: A Facebook video claims that a ‘zombie’ virus, which is capable of controlling the brain of organisms after they are infected with it, has been discovered.

Rating: MISLEADING

Why we fact-checked this: The video has 632,000 views and 417 shares as of writing.

No zombies. The virus was discovered in 2014 by husband-wife scientist duo Jean-Michel Claverie and Chantal Abergel, during their study of the Siberian permafrost. They named the virus Pithovirus sibericum.

The report about the amoeba that died due to the virus is true; however, the scientists used it as bait to locate the virus inside the amoeba itself. They were able to immediately verify that the virus is unable to infect animal or human cells.

The couple stressed in a National Geographic article that they were not aiming to revive these harmful viruses, but simply trying to determine their potential dangers.

Pandora’s box? The claim mentions scientist Jean-Marie Alempic’s discovery of a virus series found to be more than 48,500 years old, named pandoraviruses. These viruses are supposedly infectious, according to the video claim.

In a scientific report published by Alempic and his team, they used a similar method of isolating the virus by using amoeba cultures as bait. They stated clearly that the amoeba’s evolutionary distance from humans and animals made sure it would not cause an accidental infection, gauging chances of it happening as “totally negligible.” – Matthew G. Yuching/Rappler.com

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