A Novel Miniature CRISPR-Cas13 System for SARS-CoV-2 Diagnostics

Ahmed Mahas, Qiaochu Wang, Tin Marsic, Magdy M. Mahfouz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rapid, point-of-care (POC) diagnostics are essential to mitigate the impacts of current (and future) epidemics; however, current methods for detecting severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) require complicated laboratory tests that are generally conducted off-site and require substantial time. CRISPR-Cas systems have been harnessed to develop sensitive and specific platforms for nucleic acid detection. These detection platforms take advantage of CRISPR enzymes' RNA-guided specificity for RNA and DNA targets and collateral trans activities on single-stranded RNA and DNA reporters. Microbial genomes possess an extensive range of CRISPR enzymes with different specificities and levels of collateral activity; identifying new enzymes may improve CRISPR-based diagnostics. Here, we identified a new Cas13 variant, which we named as miniature Cas13 (mCas13), and characterized its catalytic activity. We then employed this system to design, build, and test a SARS-CoV-2 detection module coupling reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) with the mCas13 system to detect SARS-CoV-2 in synthetic and clinical samples. Our system exhibits sensitivity and specificity comparable to other CRISPR systems. This work expands the repertoire and application of Cas13 enzymes in diagnostics and for potential in vivo applications, including RNA knockdown and editing. Importantly, our system can be potentially adapted and used in large-scale testing for diverse pathogens, including RNA and DNA viruses, and bacteria.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalACS Synthetic Biology
StatePublished - Sep 21 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)


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