CRISPR-Based Approaches for Efficient and Accurate Detection of SARS-CoV-2

Wancun Zhang, PhD; Kangbo Liu, MD; Pin Zhang, MD; Weyland Cheng, PhD; Linfei Li, MD; Fan Zhang, MD; Zhidan Yu, PhD; Lifeng Li, PhD; Xianwei Zhang, PhD


Lab Med. 2021;52(2):116-121. 

In This Article


The rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 is clearly a major concern for countries across the world. Infection with COVID-19 can be diagnosed using an RT-PCR-based approach, but inadequate access to reagents and equipment has slowed disease detection. The CRISPR-based approaches, such as STOP, SHERLOCK, and DETECTR, can provide highly sensitive, efficient, and specific detection of SARS-CoV-2 using multiple types of specimens (saliva, nasopharyngeal swab, respiratory swab, oropharyngeal swab, and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid). In addition, CRISPR-based lateral flow assay for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 is rapid, low-cost, and portable. Aside from the lower demand for sophisticated temperature controlling instruments, isothermal molecular methods are advantageous because of their faster nucleic acid amplification. These key traits of the CRISPR-based method are critical for viral detection in regions that may lack resources for currently available methods.

On May 8, 2020, the first CRISPR test for SARS-CoV-2 was approved in the United States. This new diagnostic kit was based on an approach codeveloped by CRISPR pioneer Feng Zhang at the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The diagnostic kit will be used to test for the novel coronavirus in laboratories that are certified to provide clinical test results. We believe that more CRISPR-based approaches will be approved for clinical testing of SARS-CoV-2 in the future.