The outbreak of COVID-19, caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has infected more than 5100,000 people worldwide with over 330,000 deaths since December 2019. There is no cure for COVID-19 and the vaccine development is estimated to require 9-15months.
Here these researchers demonstrate a CRISPR-Cas13-based strategy, PAC-MAN (Prophylactic Antiviral CRISPR in huMAN cells), for viral inhibition that can effectively degrade SARS-CoV-2 sequences and live influenza A virus (IAV) genome in human lung epithelial cells. They designed and screened a group of CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) targeting conserved viral regions and identified functional crRNAs for cleaving SARS-CoV-2. Bioinformatic analysis showed a group of only six crRNAs can target more than 90% of all coronaviruses. The PAC-MAN approach is potentially a rapidly implementable pan-coronavirus strategy to deal with emerging pandemic strains.
In summary, PAC-MAN strategy represents a potentially powerful new approach for inhibiting viral function and replication, and they envision it could be useful for a diverse array of circulating and emergent viral threats.