A new blood test has the ability to detect every virus a person has ever had in their body with less than a single drop of blood, according to a new report. This new discovery will reportedly enable scientists to trace how viruses spread. As reported by the New York Times, the test only costs $25 and will help scientists track patterns of disease among vast populations of people around the world. The researchers of the technology called VirScan have provided insight to the mass capabilities of the new blood test.
“VirScan is a method that enables human virome-wide exploration, at the epitope level, of immune responses in large numbers of individuals. We have demonstrated its effectiveness for determining viral exposure and characterizing viral B cell epitopes in high throughput and at high resolution.”
Other capabilities of VirScan include contributing to research for chronic diseases and cancer research. Harvard Medical School professor Stephen J. Elledge made a prediction that VirScan would soon be a hot commodity.
“I’m sure there’ll be lots of applications we haven’t even dreamed of. That’s what happens when you invent technology — you can’t imagine what people will do with it. They’re so clever.”
So, just how does this new blood testing technology work? The authors of the report have given a detailed description of just how VirScan will contribute to science.
“This method allows comprehensive analysis of antiviral antibodies in human sera. VirScan combines DNA microarray synthesis and bacteriophage display to create a uniform, synthetic representation of peptide epitopes comprising the human virome. Immunoprecipitation and high-throughput DNA sequencing reveal the peptides recognized by antibodies in the sample. The color of each cell in the heatmap depicts the relative number of antigenic epitopes detected for a virus (rows) in each sample (columns).”
VirScan is still in the testing stage. So far, the originators of the technology have concluded some extraordinary facts about VirScan’s capabilities and potential for the future of science.
“Our preliminary studies have revealed intriguing general properties of the human immune system, both at the individual and the population scale. VirScan may prove to be an important tool for uncovering the effect of host-virome interactions on human health and disease and could easily be expanded to include new viruses as they are discovered, as well as other human pathogens, such as bacteria, fungi, and protozoa.”
VirScan has so far been tested on 569 people in the United States, Thailand, Peru, and South Africa. In these preliminary tests, researchers have found that most people have been exposed to at least 10 species of virus in their lifetime. The most common types of virus detected in the blood tests were colds, flu, and gastrointestinal illnesses. The tests also showed that a few subjects had been exposed to at least 25 species, which is due to the difference in location. Beginners stages aside, infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Dr. William Schaffner finds VirScan to be a scientific breakthrough.
“This will be a treasure trove for communicable disease epidemiology.”
[Image via Bioquick News]