CRISPR or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats is used widely in scientific research to modify gene function and alter DNA sequences in human cells under lab conditions.
At a time when COVID-19 mutations are becoming a cause of concern, a team of scientists has developed a diagnostic test that can detect the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, even after it has gone through mutations. The test has been named VaNGuard (Variant Nucleotide Guard) and uses a gene-editing tool known as CRISPR.
CRISPR or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats is used widely in scientific research to modify gene function and alter DNA sequences in human cells under lab conditions. Of late it is being used for diagnostic applications.
So far several mutated strains of COVID-19 have been reported and therefore a test that can detect the virus despite mutations could be crucial in the fight against the disease. Especially when some of the variants of the virus have spread widely in countries like South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Brazil.
The team of researchers was led by Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. According to NTU Associate Professor Tan Meng How, “the genetic sequence variations in new strains may impede the ability of some diagnostic tests to detect the virus.”
According to a release by the university, the VaNGuard test can even yield results in 30 minutes when used on crude patient samples in a clinical setting without the need for RNA purification. When compared to the gold standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, the time required for this test is just one-third. Moreover, PCR test requires purification of RNA in a lab facility.
“Viruses can mutate or shuffle their genetic material and this is diagnostic tests may fail to detect them. We have spent considerable effort in developing a robust and sensitive test that can catch the mutated variants of SARS-CoV-2,” associate professor Tan said.
Scientists at NTU believe that the VaNGuard test can be of great help at places where confirming the COVID-19 status of patients is paramount. The findings by scientists have been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications and the research team has also filed a patent for the test.