New research has developed a DNA-based blood test that can reveal every single virus that has ever invaded your body, the journal Science published Thursday.
Scientists had been working on the test hoping that it will lead to early detection of various medical conditions and eventually help explain what triggers certain diseases and cancers.
The test, called VirScan, takes a person's blood and scans it for antibodies for any of the 200-plus viruses known to infect humans, the Science report said. By detecting these trace markers, scientists would know that at one time the body produced them to fight off the corresponding virus.
The research says antibodies can stay in the human body for decades after the virus subsides, thus giving scientists an idea of the viral threats any given body encountered long ago.
"The approach is clever and a technological tour de force," Ian Lipkin, the director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University, said. "It has the potential to reveal viruses people have encountered recently or many years earlier.
"This is a powerful new research tool."
Scientists performed the VirScan test on more than 500 people and found that on average they acquired 10 of the 206 viruses susceptible to humans. However, it's possible to be infected with multiple strains of a given virus and leave only one set of antibodies, researchers indicated -- meaning a patient's body can encounter similar viruses on a number of additional occasions than the blood test may indicate.
"You could be infected with many strains of rhinovirus over the course of your life, for instance, and it would show up as one hit," Harvard University professor of genetics Stephen Elledge said.
The VirScan analysis presently costs about $25, the Washington Post reported, but that price may rise if the test becomes available commercially. The initial results can be determined in about three days, scientists said.