Your Complete History of Viral Exposures

What can you possibly measure with just one drop of blood?

Well, it turns out to be quite a lot, at least in terms of viruses. Last week in Science, researchers revealed a new H1N1_influenza_virus_CClicensetechnology called VirScan that allows screening of your cumulative lifetime viral exposures. Able to look for antibodies to 206 human viral species over 1000 strains, this high-throughput method offers a powerful tool for assessing the impact of viral exposures on human disease across the lifespan.

Not only does it scan broadly across the virome but it only requires one microliter of blood and costs about twenty-five dollars per analysis. Led by virologist Stephen Elledge of Harvard Medical School, the team plans to continue to refine VirScan to overcome a few limitations but even at its current stage, it offers an opportunity to explore immune responses to viruses on a population scale. The team also aims to expand the approach to allow screening of bacteria, fungi and protozoa. For those interested in complex exposures, the question remains:

What else can be comprehensively measured in a single drop of blood?

Read more about VirScan and its potential implications in this discussion in The Scientist “A Lifetime of Viruses” and the original research article in Science by Xu et al. “Comprehensive serological profiling of human populations using a synthetic human virome”.