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Rapid Infection Detection

April 20, 2017

Scientists adapt a genetic engineering tool to the task of quickly diagnosing infections.


An artist's depiction of the Zika virus capsid Manuel Almagro Rivas CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikipedia

Artist’s depiction of the Zika virus capsid. (Manuel Almagro Rivas/CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikipedia)


A high-powered germ detector. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

CRISPR is an acronym for a powerful gene editing technique that can find and replace bits of DNA. Now, in the journal Science, Broad Institute geneticist Feng Zhang and his colleagues report that a CRISPR-based tool called SHERLOCK can quickly identify germs like the Zika virus from a urine sample.

FENG ZHANG (Broad Institute):

It’s a different way of using CRISPR not for editing the genome but to detect and diagnose biological material.


Today, identifying some germs requires a blood test and days of lab work. Zhang says SHERLOCK will ID germs in a few minutes from a urine or saliva sample, at a cost of about sixty cents.  The team also demonstrated SHERLOCK’s ability to identify different cancer cell mutations, allowing doctors to choose the best treatment for a particular type. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon