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Powerful Diagnostic Tool Accurately Detects Monkeypox Virus Faster Than Any Method

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 21 Sep 2023

At present, testing for the monkeypox virus (MPXV) is done mainly in centralized labs, and it can take days to get results due to location and logistical issues. Now, researchers have leveraged cutting-edge genetic technology to develop Australia’s first-of-its-kind tool for detecting MPXV.

In a collaborative study, a team of scientists led by the Doherty Institute (Melbourne, Australia) has introduced MPXV-CRISPR, a diagnostic tool that can identify MPXV in clinical samples with remarkable precision and faster than any existing method, all thanks to CRISPR technology. This is Australia's first diagnostic method built on CRISPR to target the genetic markers unique to MPXV. Although CRISPR is best known for editing genomes, it's also proving valuable for developing highly sensitive diagnostic tools that can rapidly identify specific genetic markers of pathogens.

Image: A CRISPR technology-based diagnostic test detects MPXV in clinical samples with acute precision (Photo courtesy of 123RF)
Image: A CRISPR technology-based diagnostic test detects MPXV in clinical samples with acute precision (Photo courtesy of 123RF)

In order for MPXV-CRISPR to work, it needs to be configured to identify the virus. Using a collection of 523 MPXV genomes, the scientists engineered 'guides' that bind to the particular segment of the viral DNA they're looking for. Essentially, when a sample contains viral DNA, the CRISPR system latches on to the target and sends out a signal, indicating the virus is present. This approach can deliver accuracy and precision nearly equivalent to the well-established PCR methods, but it does so much more quickly.

One of the standout features of MPXV-CRISPR is the speed of diagnosis it offers. In line with the World Health Organization standards for diagnostic tests to be accurate, easily accessible, and cost-effective, the researchers are now in the process of transforming MPXV-CRISPR into a portable device. The aim is to make it available for quick, on-the-spot MPXV detection across the country. MPXV-CRISPR holds the promise to dramatically change how monkeypox is managed and significantly impact public health. The study was published in The Lancet Microbe.

“By improving access to quick and reliable diagnoses around Australia, including in places with limited resources and in remote areas, this decentralized approach to testing could enable faster treatment and improve patient outcomes, while fast-tracking our capacity to manage future outbreaks,” said Dr. Shivani Pasricha, a Senior Research Officer at WEHI, Junior Laboratory Head at the Doherty Institute.

Related Links:
Doherty Institute

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