Sweden based researchers finds low-cost method, ‘COVseq’, for detecting SARS-CoV-2 variants

The total cost of sequencing thousands of viral genomes was less than 15 dollars per sample: Study (File Photo: Reuters)

New research: Sweden based researchers at Karolinska Institutet have developed a technology for cost-effective surveillance of the global spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants. The method was published in the journal Nature Communications. Ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit the world, hundreds and thousands of viral genomes have surfaced to reconstruct the evolution and global spread of the COVID-19. This holds importance in identifying ,particularly concerning variants, that are more contagious, pathogenic, or resistant to the vaccines available to the world.

For global surveillance of the genome, it is crucial to sequence and analyse not just one but many samples in a cost-effective manner. Researchers in the Bienko-Crosetto laboratory at Karolinska Institutet and Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) (Sweden) have developed a new method and named it ‘COVseq’. This can be used for surveillance of the viral genome on a colossal scale at a low cost.

In this newly found technique, the first step many copies of the viral genome were created using so-called multiplex PCR (polymerase chain reaction). The samples are afterwards labelled and pooled together in the same sequencing library, using a previous method developed in the Bienko-Crosetto laboratory which is now adapted for SARS-CoV-2 analysis.

As per the Karolinska Institutet’s Ning Zhang, co-first author of the study, ” The total cost of sequencing thousands of viral genomes was less than 15 dollars per sample when they performed small reactions on the given samples and pooled together hundreds of them into the same sequencing library”.

The findings of the comparative analysis of 29 SARS-CoV-2 positive samples showed that COVseq, as a standard method, had the similar ability to identify changes in the genome. An analysis of 245 additional samples revealed that COVseq also had the ability to detect emergent COVID variants. The advantage of using COVseq method over other existing methods was cost-effectiveness.

Nicola Crosetto, senior researcher, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics of Karolinska Institutet said, “This new cost -effective method could be used for SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance by public health agencies . It could also be adapted to other RNA viruses, like influenza and dengue viruses”.

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