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Viral metagenomics in the clinical realm: lessons learned from a Swiss-wide ring trial


Abstract

Shotgun metagenomics using next generation sequencing (NGS) is a promising technique to analyze both DNA and RNA microbial material from patient samples. Mostly used in a research setting, it is now increasingly being used in the clinical realm as well, notably to support diagnosis of viral infections, thereby calling for quality control and the implementation of ring trials (RT) to benchmark pipelines and ensure comparable results. The Swiss NGS clinical virology community therefore decided to conduct a RT in 2018, in order to benchmark current metagenomic workflows used at Swiss clinical virology laboratories, and thereby contribute to the definition of common best practices. The RT consisted of two parts (increments), in order to disentangle the variability arising from the experimental compared to the bioinformatics parts of the laboratory pipeline. In addition, the RT was also designed to assess the impact of databases compared to bioinformatics algorithms on the final results, by asking participants to perform the bioinformatics analysis with a common database, in addition to using their own in-house database. Five laboratories participated in the RT (seven pipelines were tested). We observed that the algorithms had a stronger impact on the overall performance than the choice of the reference database. Our results also suggest that differences in sample preparation can lead to significant differences in the performance, and that laboratories should aim for at least 5-10 Mio reads per sample and use depth of coverage in addition to other interpretation metrics such as the percent of coverage. Performance was generally lower when increasing the number of viruses per sample. The lessons learned from this pilot study will be useful for the development of larger-scale RTs to serve as regular quality control tests for laboratories performing NGS analyses of viruses in a clinical setting.

Abstract

Shotgun metagenomics using next generation sequencing (NGS) is a promising technique to analyze both DNA and RNA microbial material from patient samples. Mostly used in a research setting, it is now increasingly being used in the clinical realm as well, notably to support diagnosis of viral infections, thereby calling for quality control and the implementation of ring trials (RT) to benchmark pipelines and ensure comparable results. The Swiss NGS clinical virology community therefore decided to conduct a RT in 2018, in order to benchmark current metagenomic workflows used at Swiss clinical virology laboratories, and thereby contribute to the definition of common best practices. The RT consisted of two parts (increments), in order to disentangle the variability arising from the experimental compared to the bioinformatics parts of the laboratory pipeline. In addition, the RT was also designed to assess the impact of databases compared to bioinformatics algorithms on the final results, by asking participants to perform the bioinformatics analysis with a common database, in addition to using their own in-house database. Five laboratories participated in the RT (seven pipelines were tested). We observed that the algorithms had a stronger impact on the overall performance than the choice of the reference database. Our results also suggest that differences in sample preparation can lead to significant differences in the performance, and that laboratories should aim for at least 5-10 Mio reads per sample and use depth of coverage in addition to other interpretation metrics such as the percent of coverage. Performance was generally lower when increasing the number of viruses per sample. The lessons learned from this pilot study will be useful for the development of larger-scale RTs to serve as regular quality control tests for laboratories performing NGS analyses of viruses in a clinical setting.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Medical Virology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Functional Genomics Center Zurich
05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Institute of Virology
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
Uncontrolled Keywords:EQA; external quality assessment; quality control; ring trial; viral metagenomics
Language:English
Date:28 August 2019
Deposited On:07 Jan 2020 15:30
Last Modified:12 Feb 2020 10:07
Publisher:MDPI Publishing
ISSN:2073-4425
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10090655
PubMed ID:31466373

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