BOSTON (CBS) – Right now, if your doctor wants to know if you have the measles or HIV or the flu, they have to order one test for each virus.
Imagine a day when you can go to your doctor’s office and with a simple prick of your finger, they can test for hundreds of different viruses at once.
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School have developed an assay called VirScan that can determine which viruses a patient has been exposed to, perhaps 10 years or more in the past.
Viruses like influenza, herpes viruses, measles, HIV, Hepatitis C and even Ebola, are just a few that the test can identify.
Studied on nearly 600 people on four different continents, VirScan proved accurate and reliable with results generally available in 2-3 days.
Researchers say not only can it be used to screen patients for infections even before patients develop symptoms thereby preventing complications and disease, but it could also be used to find viral triggers for certain diseases.
Stephen Elledge, PhD of Brigham and Women’s Hospital is the lead scientist on the project.
“There are many diseases that people think are triggered by viral infections,” says Dr. Elledge, “Like Type 1 Diabetes or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Multiple Sclerosis that generate some sort of autoimmune response that’s a crossover from the virus, so you can begin to look at populations of patients to see if perhaps there is an element of viral infection that is part of the disease.”
That could lead to new and effective treatments, Elledge added.
VirScan is not commercially available yet but could be in a couple of years. It’s not clear how much it might cost when marketed, but right now it only costs about $50 to run the test and then confirm it.