Is “all-in-one” the best?

When searching for the best deal, 2-in-one shampoo and conditioner may seem like the best bang for your buck. For just one bottle you can decrease water usage, financial costs and environmental impact. Of course, you can improve efficiency further by purchasing a 3-in-one which includes the body wash.

But is it possible that by improving the efficiency, you could miss your objective of leaving the shower with hair that is both clean and cooperative to style? You might come to your own conclusion after trial and error of different products, but what if this same principle of combining steps is applied to the medical field – will the improved efficiency still meet defined goals?

In June, medical researchers have published the performance of a single test (VirScan) that can detect the viruses that have infected a person. They describe the test as “a comprehensive method to systematically characterize [viral] infections.” The test requires a very small blood sample to reveal if an individual has had infections from any of the 206 viral species tested in their life. Prior to VirScan, a blood test of a regular volume would be required to test just one specific pathogen. There are a number of advantages of VirScan – it only costs $25 dollars per sample, it will be quicker to diagnose patients by just one test, and it has the potential to improve the specificity and sensitivity of detecting viruses.

Firstly, the microscale allows for the test to be high-throughput, which means many samples can occur simultaneously and cost can be decreased. Furthermore, in order to test many virus strains, a library of genetic information must be created. In order to do this polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is required and is conducted in a massively parallel manner. This allows testing of very similar viruses such as different strains of the same virus.

There are some considerations which were accounted for such as gender, pregnancy, location, and age. For example, when comparing children with adults, it was found that children had less exposure while adults had a broader range of viral infections. Additionally, some viruses such as that causing chicken pox, were less evident in adults.

While there were many factors considered and appropriate techniques used, the researchers recognized some limitations of VirScan. These are primarily in regard to characteristics of some viruses. One example is if viral strains are too similar, then VirScan may not be able to distinguish the viruses. They suggest this can be overcome by using a more specific test as a follow-up to VirScan to ensure that the viral strain is identified with more certainty.

Thus, the purpose of VirScan must be clearly identified – is it for research purposes to connect viral infection to chronic illness or will it be used as a clinical application? Following this, quality control will be required to ensure that VirScan is meeting these goals for both efficiency and the purpose instilled.

Read the research paper and featured image here (Science, 2015, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa0698)
Xu, G.J., Kula, T., Xu, Q., Li, M.Z., Veronon, S.D., Ndung’u, T., Ruxrungtham, K., Sanchez, J., Brander, C., Chung, R.T., O’Connor, K.C., Walker, B., Larman, H.B., Elledge, S.J., (2015). Comprehensive serological profiling of human populations using a synthetic human virome. Science.


Adelle has received her B.Sc. in Integrated Science with Biochemistry. Through her studies gained a reputation as an ideas person, an encourager to her peers, and a hard worker. She aims to continue exploring, innovating, and inventing at every opportunity that arises.

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