New Blood Test Can Identify Past Exposures to Infections

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Alisha Vargas via Flickr

  • New blood test can identify past exposures to infections: According to a new research reently published in the journal Science, a new blood test can reveal every virus a person has been exposed to during their lifetime using less than one drop of blood. The cost of this test is about $25, and it’s capable of detecting over 1,000 strains of viruses from 206 species. This experimental test, called VirScan, could also help doctors identify how viruses spread and why diseases like cancer progress at a different rate for some individuals than others. As infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner commented: “This will be a treasure trove for communicable disease epidemiology. It will be like the introduction of the electron microscope. It will allow us to have more resolution at a micro level.” According to the senior author of the report, Dr. Stephen J. Elledge: “There were some differences in patterns of exposure from continent to continent. In general, people outside the United States had higher rates of virus exposure. The reason is not known, but the researchers said it might be due to “differences in population density, cultural practices, sanitation or genetic susceptibility.”
  • Parental age and child’s autism risk: According to the largest-ever international study of parental age and autism risk, recently published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, researchers have found increased autism rates among children born to teen moms and among kids whose parents have large gaps between their ages. The results indicated autism rates were 15 percent higher when moms had children in their 40s and 18 percent higher for children of teen moms, when compared to those born to women in their 20s. However, paternal age showed the strongest link. Children who were born to fathers over 50 had a 66 percent higher rate of having autism. If the fathers were in their 40s, there was a 28 percent higher risk of autism.” Autism rates also rose when both parents were older and when there were wider gaps between the two parents’ ages. These rates were highest when fathers were between 35 and 44 and their partners were at least 10 years younger, and when mothers were in their 30s and their partners were 10 years younger or more. Finally, the researchers highlighted that parental age is one of potentially many risk factors contributing to the development of autism, but not a cause of autism.
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