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Gigascience ; 122022 12 28.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2313424


BACKGROUND: Since the beginning of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, there has been an explosion of sequencing of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus, making it the most widely sequenced virus in the history. Several databases and tools have been created to keep track of genome sequences and variants of the virus; most notably, the GISAID platform hosts millions of complete genome sequences, and it is continuously expanding every day. A challenging task is the development of fast and accurate tools that are able to distinguish between the different SARS-CoV-2 variants and assign them to a clade. RESULTS: In this article, we leverage the frequency chaos game representation (FCGR) and convolutional neural networks (CNNs) to develop an original method that learns how to classify genome sequences that we implement into CouGaR-g, a tool for the clade assignment problem on SARS-CoV-2 sequences. On a testing subset of the GISAID, CouGaR-g achieved an $96.29\%$ overall accuracy, while a similar tool, Covidex, obtained a $77,12\%$ overall accuracy. As far as we know, our method is the first using deep learning and FCGR for intraspecies classification. Furthermore, by using some feature importance methods, CouGaR-g allows to identify k-mers that match SARS-CoV-2 marker variants. CONCLUSIONS: By combining FCGR and CNNs, we develop a method that achieves a better accuracy than Covidex (which is based on random forest) for clade assignment of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences, also thanks to our training on a much larger dataset, with comparable running times. Our method implemented in CouGaR-g is able to detect k-mers that capture relevant biological information that distinguishes the clades, known as marker variants. AVAILABILITY: The trained models can be tested online providing a FASTA file (with 1 or multiple sequences) at CouGaR-g is also available at under the GPL.

COVID-19 , Deep Learning , Puma , Animals , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Puma/genetics , Genome, Viral
J Comput Biol ; 30(4): 469-491, 2023 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2255052


The massive amount of genomic data appearing for SARS-CoV-2 since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged traditional methods for studying its dynamics. As a result, new methods such as Pangolin, which can scale to the millions of samples of SARS-CoV-2 currently available, have appeared. Such a tool is tailored to take as input assembled, aligned, and curated full-length sequences, such as those found in the GISAID database. As high-throughput sequencing technologies continue to advance, such assembly, alignment, and curation may become a bottleneck, creating a need for methods that can process raw sequencing reads directly. In this article, we propose Reads2Vec, an alignment-free embedding approach that can generate a fixed-length feature vector representation directly from the raw sequencing reads without requiring assembly. Furthermore, since such an embedding is a numerical representation, it may be applied to highly optimized classification and clustering algorithms. Experiments on simulated data show that our proposed embedding obtains better classification results and better clustering properties contrary to existing alignment-free baselines. In a study on real data, we show that alignment-free embeddings have better clustering properties than the Pangolin tool and that the spike region of the SARS-CoV-2 genome heavily informs the alignment-free clusterings, which is consistent with current biological knowledge of SARS-CoV-2.

COVID-19 , Pangolins , Humans , Animals , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , COVID-19/genetics , High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing/methods
BMC Bioinformatics ; 22(Suppl 15): 625, 2022 Apr 19.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1798449


BACKGROUND: Being able to efficiently call variants from the increasing amount of sequencing data daily produced from multiple viral strains is of the utmost importance, as demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to track the spread of the viral strains across the globe. RESULTS: We present MALVIRUS, an easy-to-install and easy-to-use application that assists users in multiple tasks required for the analysis of a viral population, such as the SARS-CoV-2. MALVIRUS allows to: (1) construct a variant catalog consisting in a set of variations (SNPs/indels) from the population sequences, (2) efficiently genotype and annotate variants of the catalog supported by a read sample, and (3) when the considered viral species is the SARS-CoV-2, assign the input sample to the most likely Pango lineages using the genotyped variations. CONCLUSIONS: Tests on Illumina and Nanopore samples proved the efficiency and the effectiveness of MALVIRUS in analyzing SARS-CoV-2 strain samples with respect to publicly available data provided by NCBI and the more complete dataset provided by GISAID. A comparison with state-of-the-art tools showed that MALVIRUS is always more precise and often have a better recall.

COVID-19 , Genome, Viral , High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing , Humans , Mutation , Pandemics , Phylogeny , SARS-CoV-2/genetics