VirScan allows simultaneous testing for 1,000 virus strains that currently or have previously infected a person, using one drop of blood. The research, from Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard, describes the interplay between immunity and the human virome.
In the study, blood samples from 600 people in Peru, the United States, South Africa and Thailand were tested. The team developed and used a library of peptides representing more than 1,000 viral strains to find evidence of previous viral exposure. Rates of exposure varied by age, geographic location and HIV status, but the team found that a small number of peptides were recognized by the vast majority of people’s immune systems. This pattern, suggesting that the immune systems of many individuals touch upon the same protein portion in a virus, could have implications for understanding immunity.
VirScan may also help researchers find correlations between previous virus exposure and the development of a disease later in life.