Source: Xu GJ, et al. Science. 2015;doi: 10.1126/science.aaa0698.
June 04, 2015
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Serological diagnostic platform provides complete history of viral infections

Source: Xu GJ, et al. Science. 2015;doi: 10.1126/science.aaa0698.
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A novel diagnostic platform may provide a complete history of viral infections from a single drop of blood, according to data recently published in Science.

The VirScan platform uses 93,904 synthesized 200-mer oligonucleutides that comprise a reference library of 206 viruses known to infect humans. The library is cloned into bacteriophage, and incubated with a serum sample. Antibodies within the serum that bind to bacteriophage are then sequenced and identified. The complete analysis can be performed for approximately $25 a sample, according to the press release, and requires 2-3 days to process 100 samples.

“We’ve developed a screening methodology to basically look back in time in people’s [blood] sera and see what viruses they have experienced,” Stephen Elledge, PhD, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said in the press release. “Instead of testing for one individual virus at a time, which is labor intensive, we can assay all of these at once. It’s one-stop shopping.”

Elledge and colleagues tested the accuracy the VirScan platform by analyzing serum samples from 569 participants residing in the United States, South Africa, Thailand and Peru. These samples comprised 100,000,000 antibody-peptide interactions, and included confirmed cases of HIV and HCV.

An average of 10 virus species were detected per sample, with antibody responses to 62 viruses detected in five samples and 84 responses in at least two individuals. By comparing known infection with HIV and HCV bases on commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blot assay, researchers determined the sensitivity and specificity of VirScan to be approximately 95% or higher over a range of viral loads.

According to the researchers, the platform is ideal for the initial viral analysis of a patient, as the results produced are inexpensive and accurate enough to offer direction for further investigation.

“We envision that VirScan will become an important tool for first-pass unbiased serologic screening applications,” the researchers wrote. “Individual viruses or viral proteins uncovered in this way can subsequently be analyzed in further detail by using more focused assays, as we have demonstrated for a panel of immunodominant epitopes.”

Disclosure: Xu and Elledge are inventors on a patent application that covers the use of phage display libraries to detect antiviral antibodies. Please see the full study for a list of all other author’s relevant financial disclosures.