A team of researchers have recently come up with a new type of blood test that cannot be considered less than revolutionary. It can basically give you information about every virus your body has ever hosted just by scanning a drop of blood from your finger.
VirScan is able to analyze the blood antibodies for more than 200 species of viruses that could affect humans.
The test was created by a professor of genetics and medicine, Stephen Elledge from Harvard Medical School and Brigham Women’s Hospital. He developed the test with his team from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
He explained that the new screening method is able to look back at the viral history of the person. By analyzing its blood sera, it can tell what viruses had infected them throughout their life. It can also save time and a lot of effort put into scanning one virus at a time.
This is possible because the human body is a complex system that documents everything, acting like an archive for the viruses that once infected us. Our immune system enhances the production of certain antibodies when it comes across a virus. These pathogen-specific antibodies are afterwards produced for a long time after the infection disappears, for safety measures.
This is why the test can identify inactive and healed exposures to about 1000 strains of viruses coming from 206 species by screening the proteins and antibodies found in our body that are characteristic of a certain species.
In order to carry out the trial to test the virus, 569 people who had been infected with various types of viruses and who came from the U.S., Thailand, Peru and South Africa were tested.
The results were satisfactory: “We were in the sensitivity range of 95 to 100 percent for those, and the specificity was good – we didn’t falsely identify people who were negative. That gave us confidence that we could detect other viruses, and when we did see them we would know they were real,” professor Elledge said.
There were some cases in which the test was not successful. For example, it was only able to identify about 30 percent of people when it was tested for chicken pox.
The test only costs $ 25 and it can prove very useful for each of us, considering that the average person is said to have been infected with at least 10 out of the 206 viruses throughout his or her life. Sometimes various strains of the same virus might have affected us, but VirScan will identify it as a single virus.
VirScan seems to be an important advancement in testing, as it can be used to check if certain species of viruses can lead to various forms of cancer or other diseases.
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