The ancestors of modern viruses ('virus fossils') are not readily available, but the reverse transcrip-tion-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) has been used to recover and amplify genomes of at least two RNA viruses from the past: influenza A virus from the 1918-19 pandemic (see Section 20.3.3.c) and tomato mosaic virus. The latter virus is very stable and it can be detected in the atmosphere. Its presence in Arctic ice was predicted, and when cores of ice between 500
and 140 000 years old were examined the RNAs of 15 strains of tomato mosaic virus were detected.
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