How Many Viruses Have Infected You?

How Many Viruses Have Infected You?


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With new technologies in the hands of the brilliant scientists of our day, we see new scientific and technological discoveries and inventions everyday. One of the recent talked about discoveries in the world of science and medicine is a cheap new lab test that with the use of just a drop of blood can reveal the different kinds of viruses you’ve been exposed to over your lifetime.

This incredible test suggests that, on average, people have been infected with about ten different types of known virus families. These include influenzas, and rhinoviruses that cause the common cold.

“Usually if you go to the doctor, the doctor might suspect that you have a particular virus, and then he or she will order a test to test that one virus,” says Stephen Elledge at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “But if you wanted to know about all viruses, there was really no way to do it.”

By turning to vast databases of information about known human viruses, Stephen and his colleagues were successful in developing this test. The way the test works is that it takes advantage of 93,000 protein fragments that exhibit more than a thousand strains of viruses, all of which fall into about two hundred different virus families.

“We can’t have all viruses, because there are so many, it’s impossible,” Elledge says. “But they are often very related to each other.” All the influenza viruses, for example, are quite closely related.

The test will cost you only 25$ just a couple of days to process hundred samples. But amazingly Ellegen thinks that it ca be made even cheaper and much faster to run. The researchers have already tested 569 people from four different continents. The results they acquired, as expected, shows that adults were more likely than children to have been exposed to certain viruses. And not surprisingly people living in regions such as South Africa, Peru, and Thailand who have more of a chance of being in contact with different viruses, tended to have antibodies against more viruses than people in the United States.

“In medical research, that comes down to testing for a virus that you already suspect is involved in a disease process. But with this tool, you can now screen for lots of viruses with just one drop of blood. So you could find things you’re not expecting. That’s what exciting about it.” says Ellen Foxman of Yale University School of Medicine.


For a long time researchers have thought that certain diseases, such as diabetes or some kinds of cancer, might be triggered by viral infections. As doctor Foxman stated this has the potential of saving plenty of lives and curing more patients because doctors while not waisting a lot of time and resources can look for hundreds of diseases that they wouldn’t normally look for.

Lynn Enquist, a virologist at Princeton University, calls the technology “remarkable and powerful,” and noted that in the future it could be adapted to analyze the immune response to other potential pathogens, including bacteria and fungi.

I’m always staggered to hear about such inventions and discoveries because it makes me think that although there are plenty of disastrous  problems and issues around the world from corrupt politicians and officials, to worrying issues like the Climate Change, there are people who have the thirst and the ingenuity to look for solutions to our problems. These people in my opinion are the real heroes of our time. They are people who dedicate their lives to protecting democratic values of our species such as Life in this case and however frustrating the process might be they never give up.