Scientists Developed a Low-cost Test to Detect Delta Variant in Saliva

Scientists from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in collaboration with several hospitals in the Boston area developed a low-cost CRISPR-based diagnostic test, called miSHERLOCK, allowing users to test themselves at home for different variants of SARS-CoV-2, including the Delta variant, with their saliva.Scientists Developed a Low-cost Test to Detect Delta Variant in Saliva

To identify targets for their test, the scientists performed a bioinformatic analysis of a specific region of the SARS-CoV-2 genome responsible for the replication of the virus and identified a region of a gene known as the ‘nucleoprotein’ that was common to different virus variants and did not share features with other coronaviruses.

After this, they used CRISPR-based ‘molecular scissors,’ an enzyme known as Cas12a, to bind to and cut this area of the nucleoprotein gene to produce a fluorescent signal that can provide a test result.

Lead researchers Helena de Puig Guixe, a postdoctoral researcher at the Collins lab at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, says: “Our device is low-cost, provides a simple visual answer in 1 hour, and only requires saliva from a patient with no additional equipment separate from the device itself (including its standard battery). […] Our full device, including all testing components, costs $15, down to $6 with reuse of the housing and electronics, but could be as low as $2–3 per test if produced at scale.”

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