A Myriad of Viruses Detected in One Blood Sample

Last updated date: 16-Jul-2021

Herzliya Medical Center

3 mins read

Can you remember that time you had measles or was it mumps? Forgotten whether you have been vaccinated for a particular virus? The average person is infected with at least 10 viruses in their lifetime. A new innovative blood test can simply reveal all the viruses you have ever had. The VirScan can greatly improve the current diagnostic tests that detect particular viruses, in a timely and efficient manner – identifying multiple viruses.

How are Viruses Identified in Our Blood?

The presence of specific antibodies in the blood indicates that a virus recently (or in the past) infected a person. These antibodies are only present because of the body’s automatic immune system response to target and attack foreign bodies (like a virus) and destroy them before they ensure cellular damage. Should the person be infected with the virus again, the antibodies (that are still present from the primary infection) can initiate a fast, immediate response and kill off the virus.

Currently, several types of specific diagnostic tests are able to detect individual viruses by the presence of antibodies either in the blood, urine, feces, saliva or spinal fluid (depending on the type of test).


How Does the VirScan Detect All Viruses?

Requiring only a small amount of blood, the test is relatively cheap to conduct, around $25! A team of Harvard University geneticists compiled an international database of over 250 viruses, with over 1000 strains and recreated their DNA. The DNA was then inserted into bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) resulting in specific viral proteins on its surface. These proteins on the bacteriophages, specific to an individual virus and when mixed with the patient’s blood, if the patient had antibodies present that bonded to these proteins, it indicated the presence of that particular virus in their blood. This is the basis of this new test; numerous viruses can be detected by identifying multiple antibodies in the blood sample that specifically bind to specific bacteriophage proteins.


What is the Advantage of VirScan?

The VirScan can test for all types of viruses, the test not only provides a comprehensive viral history, but also can identify unknown viruses that the person may have, even HIV – it could ultimately be used as a means to screen for the silent, but deadly Hepatitis C virus among other viruses. New virus outbreaks can also be added to the database; their mechanisms within the human body could be better understood with the VirScan by determining if the virus is related to an existing one, for example. VirScan test could provide answers as to whether particular viruses are associated with mysterious diseases like chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and type 1 diabetes.

The only challenge lies in the fact that in early infection of a virus, antibodies may be few in the blood and not easily detected as such. In addition, identifying antibodies triggered in response to a vaccine verses from a viral infection may be problematic. One this is refined, the test will have great impact in medicine, even applying it to testing for bacteria and other pathogens.


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