Using the CRISPR gene editing tool, Australian researchers prevented Sars-CoV-2 from replicating in human cells in vitro. These results published in the journal Nature Communications « could[en]t open the door to new treatments against Covid-19 ».
The “molecular scissors”, CRISPR-Cas13b in this case, have been adapted to recognize the virus. Once linked to the Sars-CoV-2 RNA, the CRISPR tool ” degrades the part of the genome that it needs to replicate inside the cells, preventing it from multiplying and infecting other cells “. The technique was also tested on the alpha variant, and was found to be ” effective According to the researchers.
« We still need better treatment for people hospitalized by Covid », Points out Sharon Lewin, director of Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, and lead author of the study. But the time required to obtain ” widely used treatments »Is counted in years, she warns. The objective: ” a simple antiviral, taken by mouth, that patients would receive as soon as their Covid-19 screening test was positive ».
After the in vitro tests, the researchers are now planning to conduct animal tests. According to Mohamed Fareh, researcher at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and co-author of the study, due to “ the flexibility and adaptability of its design “, This tool could also be used to treat” a multitude of pathogenic viruses, including influenza, Ebola virus and possibly HIV ».
 Mohamed Fareh et al, Reprogrammed CRISPR-Cas13b suppresses SARS-CoV-2 replication and circumvents its mutational escape through mismatch tolerance, Nature Communications (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-24577-9
Sources : AFP (13/07/2021) ; Trust my Science, Jonathan Paiano (14/07/2021)