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SHERLOCK diagnoses deadly viruses in areas with limited infrastructure

One of the keys to bringing a viral outbreak under control is rapid detection and diagnosis, which depend on the availability of fast, low-cost, easy-to-use tests that don’t require labs or expensive equipment to process them. Scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and collaborators in the United States, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone have now validated such tests for Ebola and Lassa — two of the deadliest and most transmissible human viruses — in settings with limited infrastructure.

The diagnostic tests use the CRISPR-based SHERLOCK assay to detect low levels of virus in patient samples. The test can detect specific viruses from certain regions, requires only a simple heat block and basic supplies to run, costs less than US$1 per sample, could be used on saliva or urine, and can return results in less than an hour.

Barnes KG, Lachenauer AE, et al. Deployable CRISPR-Cas13a diagnostic tools to detect and report Ebola and Lassa virus cases in real-time. Nature Communications. Online August 17, 2020. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-17994-9.