One of the keys to bringing a viral outbreak under control is rapid detection and diagnosis, which depend on the availability of fast, low-cost, easy-to-use tests that don’t require labs or expensive equipment to process them. Scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and collaborators in the United States, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone have now validated such tests for Ebola and Lassa — two of the deadliest and most transmissible human viruses — in settings with limited infrastructure. The work appears in Nature Communications.

Image/Broad Institute

The diagnostic tests use the CRISPR-based SHERLOCK assay to detect low levels of virus in patient samples and generate either a fluorescent readout or a result on a paper strip. The test can be tailored to detect specific viruses from certain regions, requires only a simple heat block and basic supplies to run, costs less than US$1 per sample, could be used on saliva or urine — eliminating the need for blood draws — and can return results in less than an hour.

The tests also use a rapid chemical and heat treatment called HUDSON to inactive the virus in patient samples. HUDSON makes the patient samples safer for clinical staff to handle in a low-tech environment, and eliminates the need to extract a virus’s genetic material from the samples before analyzing.


Read more at the Broad Institute of MIT