|(Aedes aegypti mosquito, known for carrying Dengue fever and the Zika virus, found on Wikepedia and taken from CDC public domain)|
In the event of an outbreak, fast, reliable diagnoses are of the essence. Recently, researchers have applied CRISPR technology to provide for this need, dubbed SHERLOCK (Specific High sensitivity Enzymatic Reporter unLOCKing). This works by applying a target sequence of RNA (for either Zika or dengue) to a Cas13a enzyme. A reporter RNA that gives off a fluorescent light upon cutting is added to the selected sample. When the Cas13a enzyme finds a matching RNA sequence, it cuts it, and then begins to induce collateral damage to nearby RNA. It is during this phase that it inevitably cuts the fluorescent reporter; this then gives off a signal that alerts to the presence of the select virus.
The sensitivity of this test is a million times greater than current diagnostic tools used for this purpose. It is also incredibly specific, eliminating false positives. In addition to detecting these viruses, it can easily be outfitted to detect other viruses, bacteria, and even cancer DNA. In addition to its efficiency, it is also economical, with durable field tests using glass paper starting at less than a dollar a sheet.
In lecture, this particular technology was only briefly touched upon. However, it is evident that current and future advances in genetics will be built upon this technology. Included below is an introductory video explaining CRISPR as a whole and the link to the article this post was based on.