A home test for Zika? CRISPR may make it possible

CRISPR, the powerful genome editor, may one day be used to detect infections or cancers in blood samples.

Three papers published this week in Science show how CRISPR-based systems dubbed DETECTR and SHERLOCK distinguished the Zika virus from the closely related dengue virus in samples, as well as the cancer-causing human papillomavirus.

The researchers showed that such systems could be simplified to work on test strips that resemble home pregnancy tests. It will take at least a few years to develop these products and prove they work, but they could become cheap, effective new diagnostics.