Proficiency testing for SARS-CoV-2 whole genome sequencing.
ABSTRACT: Extensive studies and analyses into the molecular features of severe acute respiratory syndrome related coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) have enhanced the surveillance and investigation of its clusters and transmission worldwide. The whole genome sequencing (WGS) approach is crucial in identifying the source of infection and transmission routes by monitoring the emergence of variants over time and through communities. Varying SARS-CoV-2 genomics capacity and capability levels have been established in public health laboratories across different Australian states and territories. Therefore, laboratories performing SARS-CoV-2 WGS for public health purposes are recommended to participate in an external proficiency testing program (PTP). This study describes the development of a SARS-CoV-2 WGS PTP. The PTP assessed the performance of laboratories while providing valuable insight into the current state of SARS-CoV-2 genomics in public health across Australia. Part 1 of the PTP contained eight simulated SARS-CoV-2 positive and negative specimens to assess laboratories' wet and dry laboratory capacity. Part 2 involved the analysis of a genomic dataset that consisted of a multi-FASTA file of 70 consensus genomes of SARS-CoV-2. Participating laboratories were required to (1) submit raw data for independent bioinformatics analysis, (2) analyse the data with their processes, and (3) answer relevant questions about the data. The performance of the laboratories was commendable, despite some variation in the reported results due to the different sequencing and bioinformatics approaches used by laboratories. The overall outcome is positive and demonstrates the critical role of the PTP in supporting the implementation and validation of SARS-CoV-2 WGS processes. The data derived from this PTP will contribute to the development of SARS-CoV-2 bioinformatic quality control (QC) and performance benchmarking for accreditation.
Project description:Genomics and whole genome sequencing (WGS) have the capacity to greatly enhance knowledge and understanding of infectious diseases and clinical microbiology.The growth and availability of bench-top WGS analysers has facilitated the feasibility of genomics in clinical and public health microbiology.Given current resource and infrastructure limitations, WGS is most applicable to use in public health laboratories, reference laboratories, and hospital infection control-affiliated laboratories.As WGS represents the pinnacle for strain characterisation and epidemiological analyses, it is likely to replace traditional typing methods, resistance gene detection and other sequence-based investigations (e.g., 16S rDNA PCR) in the near future.Although genomic technologies are rapidly evolving, widespread implementation in clinical and public health microbiology laboratories is limited by the need for effective semi-automated pipelines, standardised quality control and data interpretation, bioinformatics expertise, and infrastructure.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Pathogen whole genome sequencing (WGS) is being incorporated into public health surveillance and disease control systems worldwide and has the potential to make significant contributions to infectious disease surveillance, outbreak investigation and infection prevention and control. However, to date, there are limited data regarding (i) the optimal models for integration of genomic data into epidemiological investigations and (ii) how to quantify and evaluate public health impacts resulting from genomic epidemiological investigations.<h4>Methods</h4>We developed the Pathogen Genomics in Public HeAlth Surveillance Evaluation (PG-PHASE) Framework to guide examination of the use of WGS in public health surveillance and disease control. We illustrate the use of this framework with three pathogens as case studies: Listeria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and SARS-CoV-2.<h4>Results</h4>The framework utilises an adaptable whole-of-system approach towards understanding how interconnected elements in the public health application of pathogen genomics contribute to public health processes and outcomes. The three phases of the PG-PHASE Framework are designed to support understanding of WGS laboratory processes, analysis, reporting and data sharing, and how genomic data are utilised in public health practice across all stages, from the decision to send an isolate or sample for sequencing to the use of sequence data in public health surveillance, investigation and decision-making. Importantly, the phases can be used separately or in conjunction, depending on the need of the evaluator. Subsequent to conducting evaluation underpinned by the framework, avenues may be developed for strategic investment or interventions to improve utilisation of whole genome sequencing.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Comprehensive evaluation is critical to support health departments, public health laboratories and other stakeholders to successfully incorporate microbial genomics into public health practice. The PG-PHASE Framework aims to assist public health laboratories, health departments and authorities who are either considering transitioning to whole genome sequencing or intending to assess the integration of WGS in public health practice, including the capacity to detect and respond to outbreaks and associated costs, challenges and facilitators in the utilisation of microbial genomics and public health impacts.
Project description:The first reported case of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection was identified in Saudi Arabia in September 2012, since which time there have been over 2000 laboratory-confirmed cases, including 750 deaths in 27 countries. Nucleic acid testing (NAT) is the preferred method for the detection of MERS-CoV. A single round of a Proficiency Testing Program (PTP) was used to assess the capability of laboratories globally to accurately detect the presence of MERS-CoV using NAT. A panel of eleven lyophilized specimens containing different viral loads of MERS-CoV, common coronaviruses, and in vitro RNA transcripts was distributed to laboratories in all six World Health Organization regions. A total of 96 laboratories from 79 countries participating in the PTP, with 76 of 96 (79.2%) reporting correct MERS-CoV results for all nine scored specimens. A further 10 laboratories (10.4%) scored correctly in eight of nine specimens of the PTP. The majority of laboratories demonstrated satisfactory performance in detecting the presence of MERS-CoV using NAT. However, some laboratories require improved assay sensitivity, reduced cross contamination of samples, and improved speciation of coronavirus subtypes for potentially complex clinical specimens. Further PTP and enhanced links with expert laboratories globally may improve the laboratory performance.
Project description:Viral whole-genome sequencing (WGS) provides critical insight into the transmission and evolution of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Long-read sequencing devices from Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) promise significant improvements in turnaround time, portability and cost, compared to established short-read sequencing platforms for viral WGS (e.g., Illumina). However, adoption of ONT sequencing for SARS-CoV-2 surveillance has been limited due to common concerns around sequencing accuracy. To address this, here we perform viral WGS with ONT and Illumina platforms on 157 matched SARS-CoV-2-positive patient specimens and synthetic RNA controls, enabling rigorous evaluation of analytical performance. We report that, despite the elevated error rates observed in ONT sequencing reads, highly accurate consensus-level sequence determination was achieved, with single nucleotide variants (SNVs) detected at >99% sensitivity and >99% precision above a minimum ~60-fold coverage depth, thereby ensuring suitability for SARS-CoV-2 genome analysis. ONT sequencing also identified a surprising diversity of structural variation within SARS-CoV-2 specimens that were supported by evidence from short-read sequencing on matched samples. However, ONT sequencing failed to accurately detect short indels and variants at low read-count frequencies. This systematic evaluation of analytical performance for SARS-CoV-2 WGS will facilitate widespread adoption of ONT sequencing within local, national and international COVID-19 public health initiatives.
Project description:The global spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern underscore an urgent need of simple deployed molecular tools that can differentiate these lineages. Several tools and protocols have been shared since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they need to be timely adapted to cope with SARS-CoV-2 evolution. Although whole-genome sequencing (WGS) of the virus genetic material has been widely used, it still presents practical difficulties such as high cost, shortage of available reagents in the global market, need of a specialized laboratorial infrastructure and well-trained staff. These limitations result in SARS-CoV-2 surveillance blackouts across several countries. Here we propose a rapid and accessible protocol based on Sanger sequencing of a single PCR fragment that is able to identify and discriminate all SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) identified so far, according to each characteristic mutational profile at the Spike-RBD region (K417N/T, E484K, N501Y, A570D). Twelve COVID-19 samples from Brazilian patients were evaluated for both WGS and Sanger sequencing: three P.2, two P.1, six B.1.1 and one B.1.1.117 lineage. All results from the Sanger sequencing method perfectly matched the mutational profile of VOCs and non-VOCs RBD's characterized by WGS. In summary, this approach allows a much broader network of laboratories to perform molecular surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 VOCs and report results within a shorter time frame, which is of utmost importance in the context of rapid public health decisions in a fast evolving worldwide pandemic.
Project description:External quality assessment (EQA) is essential for ensuring reliable test results, especially when laboratories are using assays authorized for emergency use for newly emerging pathogens. We developed an EQA panel to assess the quality of real-time reverse transcription PCR assays being used in South Korea to detect severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). With the participation of 23 public health organization laboratories and 95 nongovernmental laboratories involved in SARS-CoV-2 testing, we conducted qualitative and semiquantitative performance assessments by using pooled respiratory samples containing different viral loads of SARS-CoV-2 or human coronavirus OC43. A total of 110 (93.2%) laboratories reported correct results for all qualitative tests; 29 (24.6%) laboratories had >1 outliers according to cycle threshold values. Our EQA panel identified the potential weaknesses of currently available commercial reagent kits. The methodology we used can provide practical experience for those planning to conduct evaluations for testing of SARS-CoV-2 and other emerging pathogens in the future.
Project description:Despite being a well-established research method, the use of whole-genome sequencing (WGS) for routine molecular typing and pathogen characterization remains a substantial challenge due to the required bioinformatics resources and/or expertise. Moreover, many national reference laboratories and centers, as well as other laboratories working under a quality system, require extensive validation to demonstrate that employed methods are "fit-for-purpose" and provide high-quality results. A harmonized framework with guidelines for the validation of WGS workflows does currently, however, not exist yet, despite several recent case studies highlighting the urgent need thereof. We present a validation strategy focusing specifically on the exhaustive characterization of the bioinformatics analysis of a WGS workflow designed to replace conventionally employed molecular typing methods for microbial isolates in a representative small-scale laboratory, using the pathogen Neisseria meningitidis as a proof-of-concept. We adapted several classically employed performance metrics specifically toward three different bioinformatics assays: resistance gene characterization (based on the ARG-ANNOT, ResFinder, CARD, and NDARO databases), several commonly employed typing schemas (including, among others, core genome multilocus sequence typing), and serogroup determination. We analyzed a core validation dataset of 67 well-characterized samples typed by means of classical genotypic and/or phenotypic methods that were sequenced in-house, allowing to evaluate repeatability, reproducibility, accuracy, precision, sensitivity, and specificity of the different bioinformatics assays. We also analyzed an extended validation dataset composed of publicly available WGS data for 64 samples by comparing results of the different bioinformatics assays against results obtained from commonly used bioinformatics tools. We demonstrate high performance, with values for all performance metrics >87%, >97%, and >90% for the resistance gene characterization, sequence typing, and serogroup determination assays, respectively, for both validation datasets. Our WGS workflow has been made publicly available as a "push-button" pipeline for Illumina data at https://galaxy.sciensano.be to showcase its implementation for non-profit and/or academic usage. Our validation strategy can be adapted to other WGS workflows for other pathogens of interest and demonstrates the added value and feasibility of employing WGS with the aim of being integrated into routine use in an applied public health setting.
Project description:Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is an emerging new type of coronavirus that is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented global health emergency. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) of SARS-CoV-2 plays a critical role in understanding the disease. Performance variation exists across SARS-CoV-2 viral WGS technologies, but there is currently no benchmarking study comparing different WGS sequencing protocols. We compared seven different SARS-CoV-2 WGS library protocols using RNA from patient nasopharyngeal swab samples under two storage conditions with low and high viral inputs. We found large differences in mappability and genome coverage, and variations in sensitivity, reproducibility, and precision of single-nucleotide variant calling across different protocols. For certain amplicon-based protocols, an appropriate primer trimming step is critical for accurate single-nucleotide variant calling. We ranked the performance of protocols based on six different metrics. Our findings offer guidance in choosing appropriate WGS protocols to characterize SARS-CoV-2 and its evolution.
Project description:During the course of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic reports of mutations with effects on spreading and vaccine effectiveness emerged. Large scale mutation analysis using rapid SARS-CoV-2 Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) is often unavailable but could support public health organizations and hospitals in monitoring transmission and rising levels of mutant strains. Here we report a novel WGS technique for SARS-CoV-2, the EasySeq™ RC-PCR SARS-CoV-2 WGS kit. By applying a reverse complement polymerase chain reaction (RC-PCR), an Illumina library preparation is obtained in a single PCR, thereby saving time, resources and facilitating high-throughput screening. Using this WGS technique, we evaluated SARS-CoV-2 diversity and possible transmission within a group of 173 patients and healthcare workers (HCW) of the Radboud university medical center during 2020. Due to the emergence of variants of concern, we screened SARS-CoV-2 positive samples in 2021 for identification of mutations and lineages. With use of EasySeq™ RC-PCR SARS-CoV-2 WGS kit we were able to obtain reliable results to confirm outbreak clusters and additionally identify new previously unassociated links in a considerably easier workaround compared to current methods. Furthermore, various SARS-CoV-2 variants of interest were detected among samples and validated against an Oxford Nanopore sequencing amplicon strategy which illustrates this technique is suitable for surveillance and monitoring current circulating variants.