Each time a person is infected with a virus, the body’s immune system produces a set of antibodies that are meant to specifically combat that particular virus. The antibodies often far outlive the infection and can provide a type of catalog of the different viruses a person was exposed to.
This footprint of the immune system has been used often to identify the history of viral infections of people, but the tests that exist today are limited to testing just one type or at the most a couple of virus strains each time.
The tests are primarily used to test clinical hypotheses.
U.S. researchers claim now they have a developed a new test that could provide a comprehensive list of past viruses of a patient with only one drop of blood.
This new test could now allow analysis that is hypothesis free to detect any association between past infections by viruses.
VirScan is the method that was developed by generating viruses in the lab known as bacteriaphage. Each of the bacteriaphage express a small fragment of the blueprint of human virus. The bacteriaphage can be recognized by antibodies in the sample blood.
The test is then able to create a DNA sequence of that bacteriaphage that elicited a response by antibodies to reveal past viral infections.
Researchers sampled the blood of more than 565 human donors that were from the U.S., Thailand, Peru and South Africa, They observed close to 100 million reactions from antibodies.
On average, it was found that each person had been exposed to 10 viral species and at least two of the people tested had antibodies of 84 species. One researcher said often times the same virus has different strains and they are then represented individually.
Researchers said they also found that there is an increase in the number of infections as people age. This data showed that participants who were living in the United States had fewer exposures to viruses than did those people living in the other countries that were sampled.
One scientist called the discovery a game changer since all the previous viruses in a person can now by looked at.