GENOMERS: Toehold switch enabled viral detection via routine glucose monitoring technology
Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a virus with ~35% mortality rate, considered to be one of the most likely to cause major epidemics. We aim to develop a rapid, low-cost test for MERS-CoV for potential use in field diagnosis. Our biosensor is based on the toehold switch mechanism. The designed switches regulate the expression of trehalase, an enzyme which hydrolyzes the disaccharide trehalose to glucose. Thus, overall, the presence of viral load in the sample triggers glucose production, which is measured by a repurposed glucometer, signaling the diagnosis. Finally, attempting to accelerate the diagnosis, we lower the complexity of the switches using an alternative reporter, an engineered split trehalase. The two split fragments assemble to a functional enzyme through coiled-coil interactions. Our proposed diagnostic workflow is easily customizable for the detection of other viruses threatening global health, aiming to contribute to travel medicine and diagnostics.