How can I work with CRISPR

Researchers are working on a new rapid test : Gene scissors Crispr can detect SARS-CoV-2 in five minutes

So far, it has taken several hours before the coronavirus can be detected in complex PCR tests. US researchers have now developed another possible rapid test for the detection of SARS-CoV-2. The new test is based on the Crispr gene scissors and, according to initial studies, can deliver a result within a few minutes.

The study, which was published on the MedRxiv website for preprints from the medical sector, has not yet been reviewed. In addition, according to the researchers, only five samples were examined for the study.

The test would be interesting for medical practices or for visitors and employees in care facilities - because according to the first publication, the result was available within five minutes.

The so-called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is currently used as the standard for corona tests in laboratories. In PCR methods, genetic virus material is detected using highly sensitive molecular methods using a swab from the respiratory tract. The investigated reactions have to be repeated several times, which makes the process time-consuming. In addition, the tests are cost-intensive because special devices such as the thermal cycler are required.

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The virus detection method developed in Germany is still considered the "gold standard". Because the process is very sensitive - and therefore precise.

A team led by Daniel Fletcher from the University of Berkeley and Melanie Ott from the Gladstone Institute is working on the new rapid test procedure. The research team is supported by Jennifer Doudna, among others. The American biochemist only caused a stir last week when she and the French microbiologist and Berliner Emmanuelle Charpentier won this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing the gene scissors.

[Family doctor, test centers, hospital: who can be tested where - and who not? Read an overview here.]

The procedure, which is based on the Crispr gene scissors and is also carried out with a secretion from a smear, uses a short RNA molecule, like the PCR method, to find the corresponding gene. In contrast to the PCR method, the primer is not used, but a guide RNA. When this has attached itself to the virus gene, it is cut up by the gene scissors.

A reporter RNA is released that carries a fluorescent marker and is made to glow by a laser. A camera can then capture this color.

According to the researchers, the test would only require a small detection device and could therefore also be carried out in doctor's offices. The result can be created with the help of a smartphone. The CRISPR rapid test would not only be faster, but also cheaper than the PCR method.

In addition, the viral load can also be measured. This information could be helpful for the potential treatment method of a Covid-19 patient, as the molecular biologist Max Wilson explains in an initial assessment of the "Science Magazine".

However, the new type of Crispr test is still in its early stages of development. Further studies still have to be investigated to what extent the method is suitable.

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