Scientists have come up with an incredibly cheap blood test that can detect every virus that has ever infected you.
VirScan can screen a person for 206 virus species and over 1000 virus strains and provide a comprehensive history of previous viral infections using just one drop of blood.
Stephen Elledge of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School, who lead the research said the test “allows scientists to ask questions that just couldn’t be asked before.”
By comparing viral histories of different groups of people the test would also give doctors the option to observe what role, if any, viruses play in exacerbating common conditions such as diabetes -- essentially allowing us to make the connection between past infections and current illnesses within a population.
In an article published in Science Elledge and his team also maintain that current blood tests, which only scan for one virus at a time only allows doctors to 'address specific clinical hypotheses.'
VirScan, which costs $25 (£16) has been developed using a library of over 100,000 synthetic protein fragments to represent various viruses.
After adding these protein fragments to a sample of blood they analysed the antibodies (the body's natural response to intruders) that attached to these fragments.
By isolating the paired antibodies they were able to determine the viral infection history.
Elledge and team used VirScan on more than 500 people from the United States, Thailand, South Africa, and Peru and found that on average people have antibodies for ten previous infections.
Some microbiologists are skeptical of whether the test provides a comprehensive picture of certain viral infections.
Vincent Racaniello of Columbia University told Science that there is a risk of VirScan missing viruses if certain antibodies don't last for a long time.
But Elledge said: “We know that we’re probably missing a little bit ...but we’re still detecting a lot.”
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