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New Test Shows Every Virus You've Ever Had


As scientists take laboratory experiments all the way into commercial use, and they create new ways to read our bodies, this has to be one of the more intriguing new discoveries.

VirScan is a DNA-based blood test that can scan a person’s whole viral history. The test screens the blood for antibodies against the 206 different viruses that infect humans. This is quite a leap from current tools, which test for one virus at a time. Scientists are calling it a critical new research tool.

The Washington Post just featured this research, which is intended to find ways to detect Hepatitis C early and explain what causes some autoimmune diseases and some cancers.

Most people tested showed about 10 of the 206 possible viruses. That may sound small, when we think of all of the times we have had cold viruses, but scientists explain a person can be infected with many forms of rhinovirus, but when this test is run, it will show up as one virus.

The immune system which produces antibodies, when it runs into a virus, continues to produce those antibodies years after an infection subsides.

As this discovery leads to more research, I think it will prompt all sorts of individual questions too. It would be interesting to compare an individual’s overall health records with their virus patterns, matching dates and tracking ups and downs in health.

A Job Always Well Done

For several years I worked with a group of university scientists who did this type of research at the cell level. Their names frequently show up in the news as they take their lab experiments all the way from the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside.

One recent development received a lot of attention, as a way to expedite ER tests for infection with a breathalyzer. The new process may save lives as it slashes the vital time lag from initial ER diagnosis to the beginning of critical treatments.

To get the flavor of these experiments, check any university website and scan the science discovery news. I sat in a lot of meetings with these fellows and they were some of the most interesting, and nicest, people, I have ever met. They would come walking in, wearing casual shorts and shirts, looking as if they were headed out for golf. But really, most of them would make their way back to labs after the meeting, and put in at another 10 or more hours, working on their latest experiments, and grants to help fund their research.

This new virus discovery is just one more example of why we should all support university research whenever we can.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Lynn Chan

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