CRISPR-based malaria test

CRISPR-based malaria test

Among the barriers to malaria eradication are asymptomatic carriers who serve as parasite reservoirs and a lack of highly sensitive diagnostic methods suitable for use in resource-limited settings. Sensitive diagnostic methods are also needed for species of malaria parasites other than Plasmodium falciparum.

The researchers developed a CRISPR-based diagnostic method to detect four species of the malarial parasite Plasmodium. The test, which uses a nucleic acid detection platform called SHERLOCK, begins with a 10-minute parasite extraction step, followed by a 60-minute species-specific detection process with readout by fluorescence or on a lateral flow strip.

The authors report that the process is optimized for field conditions and resource-limited settings, with a cost of around $0.61 per test. The reaction materials are freeze-dried into a pellet that can be rehydrated, without the need for refrigeration.

Additionally, the authors note that the P. falciparum test is capable of detecting below two parasites per microliter of blood—a threshold smaller than the World Health Organization’s recommended limit of detection for molecular testing.

According to the authors, the test enables rapid, low-cost, sensitive diagnosis of symptomatic and asymptomatic malaria carriers, particularly carriers of nonfalciparum parasite species.