This Blood Test Tells You Every Virus You've Ever Had

Photographed by Jessica Nash.
Maybe you can't remember every time you've been sick quite as well as every episode of Parks and Rec. And, maybe you like it that way. But, Wired reports, there's now a simple blood test that can detect every single virus you've ever had.

The test (VirScan) was detailed in a study published yesterday in the journal Science. The researchers evaluated the new test using samples from 569 people in South Africa, Thailand, Peru, and the U.S. Overall, they found that people had antibodies for an average of 10 viruses, meaning people had been infected by those 10 viruses at some point in their lives. But, the authors write that those participants were probably infected by more than one strain of common viruses, which would still only show up as one positive hit.

So, VirScan works as well as the single-virus tests we currently have, but it looks for the presence of many different viruses simultaneously. And, it does so by working on a very tiny scale: Using just a drop of blood, the test detects antibodies our bodies create to fight off viruses. These are then matched up to a database of the signature proteins for 206 known viruses (and over 1,000 strains of those viruses). If the antibodies bind to the proteins, you've got a match — and you've had that virus in the past.

What's even cooler is that, because our bodies can continue to produce those antibodies for years after we've beaten the infection, this test scans for all the viruses you've ever had. The researchers hope this will lead to earlier detection of HIV. And, it could give us an insight into the long-term effects of having viral infections.

Although the test does better at picking out some viruses than others, its ability to test for a bunch of them at once (for about the same price as current tests) is definitely a plus. So, are you ready to find out your entire viral history?
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