Inexpensive test shows your virus history: Why you need to know

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Virus history

Have you ever wondered what viruses have invaded your body in the past or been frustrated that your doctor doesn’t know what is making you feel so poorly? Now there is an inexpensive blood test that can detect your viral infection history that costs just twenty five dollars. But why would a person need information about past exposure to viruses?

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Have you ever wondered what viruses have invaded your body in the past or been frustrated that your doctor doesn’t know what is making you feel so poorly? Now there is an inexpensive blood test that can detect your viral infection history that costs just twenty five dollars. But why would a person need information about past exposure to viruses?

The value of the test, called VirScan, lies in the ability to scan for multiple viruses at one time versus testing for a specific viral infection that can take time and is labor intensive.

One drop of blood shows your virus infection history
Stephen Elledge, an HHMI investigator at Brigham and Women's Hospital, led the development of VirScan said in a press release: "We've developed a screening methodology to basically look back in time in people's [blood] sera and see what viruses they have experienced," he says. "Instead of testing for one individual virus at a time, which is labor intensive, we can assay all of these at once. It's onestop shopping.

The finding, reported in the June 5, 2015, issue of the journal Science , is a cost efficient and
quick way to diagnose viruses related to autoimmune diseases and even cancer.

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VirScan also detects antibodies that are produced for years after an infection is cleared from the body, which means it can detect any virus you’ve had in the past.

A single drop of blood can detect 206 known viruses that can infect humans. The researchers say they were surprised by the similarity of antibody responses found among 569 people tested from four countries. They found the average person had antibodies to ten different viruses.

“...We identified more antibody/peptide interactions to viral proteins than had been identified in the previous history of all viral exploration,” Elledge said.

Exposure to viruses can provide valuable information that can affect a person’s health longterm even after the virus is gone. Testing for viruses among large populations can also provide information that is important for monitoring public health.

VirScan reveals viruses a person has encountered through vaccination or infection with just a single drop of blood, taking the guesswork out of what might be affecting a person’s immune system to negatively impact health and lead to chronic diseases including type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and asthma.

Citation:
Science 5 June 2015:
Vol. 348 no. 6239
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa0698

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