New rapid diagnostic tests can differentiate between COVID-19 and multiviral modifications

Researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine have developed two new rapid diagnostic tests for COVID-19 – one to detect changes in COVID-19 and one to help differentiate between other diseases that have COVID-19-like symptoms. The findings were recently published in the journal Bioengineering.

While many people are optimistic about COVID-19 vaccines, the widespread distribution of vaccines is not expected to be available for several months from now. Until that happens, the ability to diagnose COVID-19 quickly and accurately is critical to help reduce the loss of life and ongoing spread of the virus.

The technology for both tests uses the state-of-the-art CRISPR / Cas9 system. Using commercial reactions, they describe a Cas-9-based approach for the detection of nuclear acid using lateral flow measurements and fluorescence signal generation.

The first test is a rapid diagnostic test that can differentiate COVID-19 mutations. This test can be done without special knowledge or equipment. It uses a technology similar to a home pregnancy test and produces results in about an hour.

The second more sensitive test allows researchers to study the same sample simultaneously for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), Influenza A and B and respiratory syncytial virus by measuring fluorescence. These viruses show similar symptoms, so if they are able to detect and differentiate them they will install a new diagnostic tool to slow down the spread of COVID-19. This test also takes about an hour and could easily be scaled up until more tests are done. The necessary equipment is present in most diagnostic laboratories and many research laboratories.

Approval of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is very promising, but the interval between initial doses and population immunity may be months. This testing platform can help bridge the gap between vaccination and immunity. “

Mark J. Osborn, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota School of Medicine and First Author

In collaboration with the U Institute of Engineering in Medicine and Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD, dean of the U of M School of Medicine, Osborn and his team now want to increase the sensitivity and real-world use of the exam this in support of the rapid detection and identification of COVID-19 changes. To make their new diagnostic technology available to healthcare providers and the general public, the researchers are currently exploring ways to scale and validate their new diagnostics.


University of Minnesota School of Medicine

Magazine Reference:

Osborn, MJ, et al. (2021) Diagnostics of late flow and fluorescence based on CRISPR / Cas9. Bioengineering.