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medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.10.09.21264695


The SARS-CoV-2 ARTIC amplicon protocol is the most widely used genome sequencing method for SARS-CoV-2, accounting for over 43% of publicly-available genome sequences. The protocol utilises 98 primers to amplify ~400bp fragments of the SARS-CoV-2 genome covering all 30,000 bases. Understanding the analytical performance metrics of this protocol will improve how the data is used and interpreted. Different concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 control material were used to establish the limit of detection (LoD) of the ARTIC protocol. Results demonstrated the LoD was a minimum of 25-50 virus particles per mL. The sensitivity of ARTIC was comparable to the published sensitivities of commercial diagnostics assays and could therefore be used to confirm diagnostic testing results. A set of over 3,600 clinical samples from three UK regions were then evaluated to compare the protocols performance to clinical diagnostic assays (Roche Lightcycler 480 II, AusDiagnostics, Roche Cobas, Hologic Panther, Corman RdRp, Roche Flow, ABI QuantStudio 5, Seegene Nimbus, Qiagen Rotorgene, Abbott M2000, Thermo TaqPath, Xpert). We developed a Python tool, RonaLDO, to perform this validation (available under the GNU GPL3 open-source licence from Positives detected by diagnostic platforms were generally supported by sequencing data; platforms that used RT-qPCR were the best predictors of whether the sample would subsequently sequence successfully. To maximise success of sample sequencing for phylogenetic analysis, samples with Ct <31 should be chosen. For diagnostic tests that do not provide a quantifiable Ct value, adding a quantification step is recommended. The ARTIC SARS-CoV-2 sequencing protocol is highly sensitive, capable of detecting SARS-CoV-2 in samples with Cts in the high 30s. However, to routinely obtain whole genome coverage, samples with Ct <31 are recommended. Comparing different virus detection methods close to their LoD was challenging and significant discordance was observed.

medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.06.24.21259107


Background Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) lineage B.1.1.7 has been associated with an increased rate of transmission and disease severity among subjects testing positive in the community. Its impact on hospitalised patients is less well documented. Methods We collected viral sequences and clinical data of patients admitted with SARS-CoV-2 and hospital-onset COVID-19 infections (HOCIs), sampled 16/11/2020 - 10/01/2021, from eight hospitals participating in the COG-UK-HOCI study. Associations between the variant and the outcomes of all-cause mortality and intensive therapy unit (ITU) admission were evaluated using mixed effects Cox models adjusted by age, sex, comorbidities, care home residence, pregnancy and ethnicity. Results Sequences were obtained from 2341 inpatients (HOCI cases = 786) and analysis of clinical outcomes was carried out in 2147 inpatients with all data available. The hazard ratio (HR) for mortality of B.1.1.7 compared to other lineages was 1.01 (95% CI 0.79-1.28, P=0.94) and for ITU admission was 1.01 (95% CI 0.75-1.37, P=0.96). Analysis of sex-specific effects of B.1.1.7 identified increased risk of mortality (HR 1.30, 95% CI 0.95-1.78) and ITU admission (HR 1.82, 95% CI 1.15-2.90) in females infected with the variant but not males (mortality HR 0.82, 95% CI 0.61-1.10; ITU HR 0.74, 95% CI 0.52-1.04). Conclusions In common with smaller studies of patients hospitalised with SARS-CoV-2 we did not find an overall increase in mortality or ITU admission associated with B.1.1.7 compared to other lineages. However, women with B.1.1.7 may be at an increased risk of admission to intensive care and at modestly increased risk of mortality.

Coronavirus Infections , COVID-19
biorxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.05.27.445958


We report a non-clinical, mathematical method of studying genetic sequences based on the information theory. Our method involves calculating the information entropy spectrum of genomes by splitting them into windows containing a fixed number of nucleotides. The information entropy value of each window is computed using the m-block information entropy formula. We show that the information entropy spectrum of genomes contains sufficient information to allow detection of genetic mutations, as well as possibly predicting future ones. Our study indicates that the best m-block size is 2 and the optimal window size should contain more than 9, and less than 33 nucleotides. In order to implement the proposed technique, we created specialized software, which is freely available. Here we report the successful test of this method on the reference RNA sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus collected in Wuhan, Dec. 2019 (MN908947) and one of its randomly selected variants from Taiwan, Feb. 2020 (MT370518), displaying 7 mutations.