Has there ever been a published experiment to take a viral "census" of a human subject's blood?

By a "census", I mean to identify every active virus in the subject's blood with some probability.

So, for example, we can imagine taking different samples of blood, diluting them, then taking the dilution and using it to innoculate a lawn of hemocytes. Presumably, different viruses would make different plaques, so they could be separated, isolated and identified. By doing different combinations of dilutions, one could I suppose make a table or curve that would show the probability of detection of a given virus based on its concentration in the blood. Thus, at the end of the experiment the researcher could state, "I have isolated all the viruses in the subject's blood having a concentration above X with a probability of Y." Obviously, this would require hundreds of samples and thousands of innoculations to achieve an accurate census.

Has anyone published a study like this?


You wouldn’t try to isolate viruses, this being the 21st century. You’d perform metagenomics analysis, which is much more sensitive.

That’s been done several times. Two examples:

Anellovirus and pegivirus C (GBV‐C) were detected among these donors. None of them were found solely in donors with abnormal liver enzyme. Anellovirus was highly prevalent (93.3%) and the co‐infection with multiple genera (alpha, beta, and gammatorquevirus) were more common in the donors with normal ALT values in comparison to those with elevated ALT ...

—-Full annotation of serum virome in Chinese blood donors with elevated alanine aminotransferase levels

Anelloviruses were detected in each of the 10 plasma pools. Human pegivirus A (HPgV; GB virus type C) sequences were identified in eight of the 10 pools, more than 90% of which belong to Genotype 2. The recently described human HPgV2 in Flaviviridae was not detected. A small number of sequence reads of human papillomavirus were also detected in three pools. In one pool, two different gemycircularvirus genomes were identified and fully sequenced.

—-Viral nucleic acids in human plasma pools

  • $\begingroup$ I don't see what this has to do with a viral census. In my copy of Fields Virology (6th Edition) there is no mention of "metagenomic analysis" so I don't know what that is. $\endgroup$ – Imprisoned Rhesus Apr 10 '20 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ Metagenomics $\endgroup$ – iayork Apr 10 '20 at 16:10

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