Date of Publication: May 5, 2020
Source: The New York Times
Testing and contact tracing for the coronavirus is the key to slowing and eventually stopping its spread at the public health level, however it is well known by now that testing has become the rate limiting step in regions with highest infection rates. It can take days from the time a symptomatic patient is tested to when they receive their results, leaving a large window of time for transmission. In the search for improving the testing methods, Crispr, the ground-breaking gene editing technology that was regarded as being the solution for many diseases, from cancer to muscular dystrophy, is now being harnessed by scientists to design a faster and cheaper diagnostic test for coronavirus. Today at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dr. Feng Zhang, one the pioneers of Crispr technology, posted a description of a prototype for their coronavirus testing device, called STOPCovid, that would give results as simply as a pregnancy test. They are being scrutinized by the general scientific community as their devices have not been tested by other labs, nor have their methods and findings been published in scientific journals. Dr. Zhang and his colleagues have published the instructions for STOPCovid on a website in hopes that other researchers will try out their method and find ways to improve it. Expert scientists state these tests are far off from becoming a scalable technology for mass production. The test from Dr. Zhang was trialed on nasal and saliva samples from 12 COVID-19 patients, and was successful in detecting a positive result in 11 of the patients, in three trials, and for the 12th patient, it was successful 2 out of 3 times. It was also successful in reporting five healthy volunteers as negatives. The researchers estimate the cost for one test would be around $6.
Summary by: Hira Raheel