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Genetic Linkage

‘At home’ coronavirus test? How CRISPR could change the way we search for COVID-19

If we take the advice of health experts, we won't be attempting a return to normal life in the US until we get better at identifying people infected with the novel coronavirus. That need is driving researchers across the nation to look for ways to expand our toolbox of testing options. And now a new test, developed using CRISPR gene editing technology, has been added to the mix.

 

About 5.4 million tests have been done in the US, according to the COVID Tracking Project, in a population of 328.2 million. That might sound like enough to keep ahead of an infectious disease that has "only" killed in five figures, but such an assumption grossly oversimplifies the situation.

 

Controlling the pandemic in the US is going to require a daunting number of diagnostic tests – not just for the sick, but to verify when they're better (two tests 24 hours apart for hospital discharge), in contact tracing to limit spread, and in the many individuals who've been infected but have few or no symptoms.

 

"In a few countries, the use of diagnostic testing on a massive scale has been a cornerstone of successful containment strategies," write Matthew P. Cheng, MDCM. McGill University Health Centre and colleagues in a recent article in Annals of Internal Medicine. The US isn't on that list and has been struggling to catch up.

 

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