Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have developed a technology for cost-effective surveillance of the global spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants. The technique is presented in the journal Nature Communications.
Since the onset of the pandemic, thousands of viral genomes have been sequenced to reconstruct the evolution and global spread of the coronavirus. This is important for identifying particularly concerning variants that are more contagious, pathogenic, or resistant to the existing vaccines.
For global surveillance of the genome, it is crucial to sequence and analyse many samples in a cost-effective way. Researchers in the Bienko-Crosetto laboratory at Karolinska Institutet and Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) in Sweden have developed a new method, named COVseq, that can be used for surveillance of the viral genome on a massive scale at a low cost.
First, many copies of the viral genome are created using so-called multiplex PCR. The samples are then labelled and pooled together in the same sequencing library, using a previous method developed in the Bienko-Crosetto laboratory and now adapted for SARS-CoV-2 analysis.
The Karolinska Institutet website quoted Ning Zhang, co-first author of the study, as saying: “By performing reactions in very small volumes and pooling together hundreds of samples into the same sequencing library, we can sequence potentially thousands of viral genomes per week at a cost of less than 15 dollars per sample.” The other co-first authors are PhD students Michele Simonetti and Luuk Harbers.
Source: Karolinska Institutet