The Broad Institute's microwell CARMEN chip. Photo: Michael James Butts

A new technology has been developed using CRISPR-based molecular diagnostics to run thousands of tests for diseases simultaneously, per a paper published in Nature today.

Why it matters: COVID-19 has painfully demonstrated the limits of conventional diagnostics methods for infectious disease. A new platform that would allow doctors to test a single sample for thousands of different pathogens could revolutionize disease response.

The new testing platform, called CARMEN and developed by scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, provides one possible answer to a question that often bedevils doctors: What are sick patients actually infected with?

  • Doctors often generally treat people who present with respiratory disease symptoms first, and then find out the cause later — or often, never.

How it works: The Broad Institute's new test uses rubber chips slightly larger than a smartphone, each with tens of thousands of "microwells" — compartments that hold two tiny droplets. One droplet contains viral genetic material from a sample, while the other contains virus-detection reagents.

  • When the detection droplet, which includes the CRISPR protein Cas13, finds the specific viral genetic sequence being targeted — like the novel coronavirus — it produces a detectable signal. The entire process can yield results in eight hours.

What they're saying: The new technology could help speed COVID-19 tests, but its bigger impact could be in enabling clinicians to rapidly test a patient sample for more than 150 different viruses.

  • "Imagine a world in which you go to the doctor and you actually find out what's making you sick," Cheri Ackerman, a postdoctoral student at the Broad Institute and lead author of the paper, said on a press call. "Instead of epidemiologists wondering what's circulating in a community, they'd be able to have accurate statistics of what's spreading and where."

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Cheri Ackerman was quoted not Catherine Freije.

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Aug 19, 2020 - Health

WHO says young people are driving the spread of coronavirus

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The World Health Organization warned at a news briefing on Tuesday that "people in their 20s, 30s and 40s" are increasingly the primary spreaders of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The words of caution come as schools and colleges across the United States weigh the risks of in-person classes, which could exacerbate the trend of young people transmitting the virus.

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Aug 18, 2020 - World

CDC lifts travel warning as Bermuda ramps up testing to suppress coronavirus

A view of Coral Beach, Bermuda. Photo: Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The CDC has lifted its coronavirus warning against nonessential travel to Bermuda, as the island ramps up a scheme to attract foreign workers on year-long residencies and marks 57 days with no detected community spread.

Driving the news: Over half of the British Overseas Territory's population has been tested for COVID-19 since on-island capabilities were set up on March 17. Premier David Burt told Axios the strict testing has left him "confident that we are going to be able to catch any clusters before they spread."