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Catherine Freije and Cameron Myhrvold are working on a test for the Covid-19 virus that will provide faster results than what’s currently in use.

They explain

  • Why more prevalent and faster testing is vital in fighting the virus,
  • How the development of a CRISPR-based diagnostic test, which primarily uses a nasal swab collection, can provide faster results—from an hour to a half hour, and
  • The mechanics of how this test actually works with the CRISPR process, Cas13, and reporter signaling, and how the general process has worked with other viral infections.

Cameron Myhrvold is a postdoctoral fellow in the Sabeti Lab and Catherine Freije is a Ph.D. student in Harvard University’s Program in Virology and is also working in the Sabeti Lab. These two virologists discuss an exciting step forward in rapid testing for the Covid-19 virus that involves CRISPR.

First, they discuss some general concerns of understanding how long the virus may linger and when exactly we can know when someone is contagion-free.  They explain that if we could test a lot of people more rapidly, it would be really helpful step forward.

They tell listeners that their test is quantitative and can let you distinguish between infection levels that are really low or moderate versus high. They then explain the mechanics of the virus test: basically, they use a CRISPR process called Sherlock that picks a target with Cas13 and amplifies it for inspection through the cleaving process and reporter signaling. 

They explain that this general process has been used for other viral infections like the Zika virus and Dengue, but must be specified for Covid-19. They add that they are still in the optimization phase, getting the test to work as well as possible. However, the turnaround for use will likely be accelerated by the FDA. They address other concerns about testing for the virus and challenges they may face.

For more, see the lab website:

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