This new COVID-19 test may give results in 45 minutes

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In a new study, researchers have developed a new swab test that can diagnose COVID-19 infections in about 45 minutes.

The CRISPR-based test—which uses gene-targeting technology and requires no specialized equipment—could help relieve testing backlogs in the United States as COVID-19 continues to spread.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the test, but clinical studies are being conducted in an effort to fast-track approval.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of California, San Francisco.

The new test—dubbed SARS-CoV-2 DETECTR—is among the first to use CRISPR gene-targeting technology to test for the presence of the novel coronavirus.

CRISPR can be modified to target any genetic sequence, so test developers “programmed” it to zero in on two sequences in the genome of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.

One sequence is common to all SARS-like coronaviruses, while the other is unique to SARS-CoV-2.

Checking for both sequences could ensure that the new test can distinguish between SARS-CoV-2 and closely related viruses.

According to the team, like other tests, this one can detect coronavirus in samples from respiratory swabs from patients.

It provides results in about 45 minutes, compared with roughly four hours for widely used tests based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques.

The researchers said that the new test can be performed in virtually any lab, using off-the-shelf chemical agents and common equipment.

PCR-based tests require specialized equipment, limiting them to well-equipped diagnostic labs.

The new test is also easy to interpret. Much like a store-bought pregnancy test, dark lines appear on test strips to indicate the presence of coronavirus genes.

The team hopes the introduction and availability of CRISPR technology will accelerate the deployment of the next generation of tests to diagnose COVID-19 infection.

One author of the study is Dr. Charles Chiu, a professor of laboratory medicine at the university.

The study is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

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