Testing for COVID-19 is a crucial part of keeping people safe and stopping the spread of the virus. But doing so is often a complicated process.
Now, a new test by MIT and colleagues promises to make testing so cheap and effective that people could potentially do it every day. Researchers at MIT and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, along with their collaborators at the University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Ragon Institute have devised a CRISPR-based diagnostic for COVID-19, called STOPCovid, that can achieve results in 30 minutes to an hour.
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“We need rapid testing to become part of the fabric of this situation so that people can test themselves every day, which will slow down outbreak,” said Omar Abudayyeh, an MIT McGovern Fellow working on the diagnostic.
The researchers tested STOPCovid on 402 patient samples (202 positive and 200 negative) and found that the test detected 93% of the positive cases as determined by PCR tests for COVID-19. In addition, the test is made to be simple enough to carry out without the need for any specialized laboratory equipment.
This is because the researchers aimed to make a test that could easily be carried out at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, nursing homes, and schools. “We developed STOPCovid so that everything could be done in a single step,” MIT biological engineering graduate student and first author of the paper Julia Joung said.
“A single step means the test can be potentially performed by nonexperts outside of laboratory settings.” The team is now trialing STOPCovid with saliva samples to further simplify the process.
“The goal is to make this test easy to use and sensitive, so that we can tell whether or not someone is carrying the virus as early as possible,” Feng Zhang, a core member of the Broad Institute and senior author on the paper, concluded.