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CRISPR tool scales up to interrogate a huge line-up of viral suspects
Rapid, reliable identification of an unknown viral infection is challenging. Use of CRISPR technology can simultaneously detect nucleic acids of many viruses and pinpoint specific ones, such as the virus that causes COVID-19.
The current severe effects of the global pandemic of COVID-19 reveals our vulnerability to emerging infectious diseases1,2. It also highlights the need for tools to detect a broad range of disease-causing agents, both known and recently emerged, that could threaten public health. However, the genetic diversity of the potential perpetrators, which include viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa, presents a practical difficulty. Molecular methods that detect nucleic acids are uniquely suited to this task because such infectious agents contain DNA, RNA, or both, that enables their recognition and identification. Feasible surveillance methods for tracking emerging global infections must have broad detection capability, be suited to high-throughput use and have low cost per test. Writing in Nature, Ackerman et al.3 describe an attempt to meet these requirements using a diagnostic detection platform they have created, called CARMEN (combinatorial arrayed reactions for multiplexed evaluation of nucleic acids).