Astonishing new test could expose your entire virus history

Worried you won't be able to remember every virus you've been infected with in the event you have to fill out a detailed medical history? Don't be. Scientists have come up with a new type of blood test that can determine every virus to have entered your body. Traces of antibodies generated by your body to fight infections can remain in your bloodstream for decades, so that's what the new test, dubbed VirScan, analyzes in order to come up with a list of previous attackers.

While this kind of test can be useful in diagnosing past and current illnesses, its real purpose is to help with understanding connections between different viruses, as well as developing vaccines. VirScan is also able to check for a wide range of infections at once, an improvement over existing blood tests, which can only check for one infection at a time.

The test isn't able to detect every single antibody that was produced in a person's lifetime, prompting some concerns over how many previous infections might be missed, but as Hidde Ploegh, an immunologist at MIT, put it, "This is really a technical tour de force."

In using the test on 500 people from the US, Peru, South Africa, and Thailand, the scientists discovered that common antibodies were exactly the same even if they developed in different people, meaning there isn't as much variation as previously thought.

The team hopes VirScan won't be much more expensive than existing blood tests, that way it could soon have widespread adoption. Doing so could allow a patient to have blood drawn once every few years during routine physicals, be quickly checked for any new infections, and have an accurate diagnosis if something is found.

SOURCE Science Mag