Cas12a/Guide RNA-Based Platforms for Rapidly and Accurately Identifying Staphylococcus aureus and Methicillin-Resistant S. aureus

In order to ensure the prevention and control of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, rapid and accurate detection of pathogens and their resistance phenotypes is a must. Therefore, this study aimed to develop a fast and precise nucleic acid detection platform for identifying S. aureus and MRSA. We initially constructed a CRISPR-Cas12a detection system by designing single guide RNAs (sgRNAs) specifically targeting the thermonuclease (nuc) and mecA genes. To increase the sensitivity of the CRISPR-Cas12a system, we incorporated PCR, loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP), and recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA). Subsequently, we compared the sensitivity and specificity of the three amplification methods paired with the CRISPR-Cas12a system. Finally, the clinical performance of the methods was tested by analyzing the fluorescence readout of 111 clinical isolates. In order to visualize the results, lateral-flow test strip technology, which enables point-of-care testing, was also utilized. After comparing the sensitivity and specificity of three different methods, we determined that the nuc-LAMP-Cas12a and mecA-LAMP-Cas12a methods were the optimal detection methods. The nuc-LAMP-Cas12a platform showed a limit of detection (LOD) of 10 aM (~6 copies μL-1), while the mecA-LAMP-Cas12a platform demonstrated a LOD of 1 aM (~1 copy μL-1). The LOD of both platforms reached 4 × 103 fg/μL of genomic DNA. Critical evaluation of their efficiencies on 111 clinical bacterial isolates showed that they were 100% specific and 100% sensitive with both the fluorescence readout and the lateral-flow readout. Total detection time for the present assay was approximately 80 min (based on fluorescence readout) or 85 min (based on strip readout). These results indicated that the nuc-LAMP-Cas12a and mecA-LAMP-Cas12a platforms are promising tools for the rapid and accurate identification of S. aureus and MRSA. IMPORTANCE The spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) poses a major threat to global health. Isothermal amplification combined with the trans-cleavage activity of Cas12a has been exploited to generate diagnostic platforms for pathogen detection. Here, we describe the design and clinical evaluation of two highly sensitive and specific platforms, nuc-LAMP-Cas12a and mecA-LAMP-Cas12a, for the detection of S. aureus and MRSA in 111 clinical bacterial isolates. With a limit of detection (LOD) of 4 × 103 fg/μL of genomic DNA and a turnaround time of 80 to 85 min, the present assay was 100% specific and 100% sensitive using either fluorescence or the lateral-flow readout. The present assay promises clinical application for rapid and accurate identification of S. aureus and MRSA in limited-resource settings or at the point of care. Beyond S. aureus and MRSA, similar CRISPR diagnostic platforms will find widespread use in the detection of various infectious diseases, malignancies, pharmacogenetics, food contamination, and gene mutations.


CRISPR-Cas12a; Staphylococcus aureus; isothermal amplification; lateral-flow strips; loop-mediated isothermal amplification; methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; polymerase chain reaction; recombinase polymerase amplification.

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