New technology developed by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers makes it possible to test for current and past infections with any known human virus by analyzing a single drop of a person's blood. The method, called VirScan, is an efficient alternative to existing diagnostics that test for specific viruses one at a time. With VirScan, scientists can run a single test to determine which viruses have infected an individual, rather than limiting their analysis to particular viruses. This unbiased approach could uncover unexpected factors affecting individual patients' health, and also expands opportunities to analyze and compare viral infections in large populations. The comprehensive analysis can be performed for about $25 per blood sample. Dr. Stephen Elledge, an HHMI investigator at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, led the development of VirScan. "We've developed a screening methodology to basically look back in time in people's [blood] sera and see what viruses they have experienced," he says. "Instead of testing for one individual virus at a time, which is labor-intensive, we can assay all of these at once. It's one-stop shopping." Dr. Elledge and his colleagues have already used VirScan to screen the blood of 569 people in the United States, South Africa, Thailand, and Peru. The scientists described the new technology and reported their findings in the June 5, 2015 issue of Science. The Science article is titled “Comprehensive Serological Profiling of Human Populations Using a Synthetic Human Virome.” VirScan works by screening the blood for antibodies against any of the 206 species of viruses known to infect humans.
Login Or Register To Read Full Story