CRISPR-based diagnostic tools will be able to rapidly diagnose future pandemics

Credit: Freepik
Credit: Freepik

Although [CRISPR] gene-editing technology [COVID] tests are still being developed and won’t be ready in the United States this year as the weather cools and demand surges, research groups recently published papers describing them as an appealing alternative as testing shortages persist amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Jennifer Doudna, a University of California-Berkeley researcher whose pioneering work in CRISPR earned a share of this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry, said the test can be done quickly and doesn’t require a lab.

In an Oct. 12 publication, researchers reported the test yielded results in five minutes and correctly identified five samples from patients with the coronavirus. When used with a mobile phone to detect signals generated by the test, the technology could provide a fast, low-cost test outside a laboratory.

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Gigi Gronvall, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said she expects more labs will explore tests using this technology. She called it “extremely promising” because people can use the tests outside the lab.

Related article:  Consumer genetic tests promise rich rewards, but can yield 'awkward surprises'

“That has been a big challenge with testing generally,” Gronvall said. “People need to have their results pretty quickly otherwise they keep going about their day and they might be infectious and not stop having contact with other people.”

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