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Real-time, portable genome sequencing for Ebola surveillance

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  • Real-time, portable genome sequencing for Ebola surveillance

    Real-time, portable genome sequencing for Ebola surveillance

    Joshua Quick, Nicholas J. Loman, Sophie Duraffour, Jared T. Simpson, Ettore Severi, Lauren Cowley, Joseph Akoi Bore, Raymond Koundouno, Gytis Dudas, Amy Mikhail, Nobila Ouédraogo, Babak Afrough, Amadou Bah, Jonathan H. J. Baum, Beate Becker-Ziaja, Jan Peter Boettcher, Mar Cabeza-Cabrerizo, Álvaro Camino-Sánchez, Lisa L. Carter, Juliane Doerrbecker, Theresa Enkirch, Isabel García- Dorival, Nicole Hetzelt, Julia Hinzmann, Tobias Holm et al.

    Nature 530, 228–232 (11 February 2016) doi:10.1038/nature16996
    Received 18 November 2015 Accepted 15 January 2016 Published online 03 February 2016
    not open access
    The Ebola virus disease epidemic in West Africa is the largest on record, responsible for over 28,599 cases and more than 11,299 deaths1. Genome sequencing in viral outbreaks is desirable to characterize the infectious agent and determine its evolutionary rate. Genome sequencing also allows the identification of signatures of host adaptation, identification and monitoring of diagnostic targets, and characterization of responses to vaccines and treatments. The Ebola virus (EBOV) genome substitution rate in the Makona strain has been estimated at between 0.87 × 10−3 and 1.42 × 10−3 mutations per site per year. This is equivalent to 16–27 mutations in each genome, meaning that sequences diverge rapidly enough to identify distinct sub-lineages during a prolonged epidemic2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Genome sequencing provides a high-resolution view of pathogen evolution and is increasingly sought after for outbreak surveillance. Sequence data may be used to guide control measures, but only if the results are generated quickly enough to inform interventions8. Genomic surveillance during the epidemic has been sporadic owing to a lack of local sequencing capacity coupled with practical difficulties transporting samples to remote sequencing facilities9. To address this problem, here we devise a genomic surveillance system that utilizes a novel nanopore DNA sequencing instrument. In April 2015 this system was transported in standard airline luggage to Guinea and used for real-time genomic surveillance of the ongoing epidemic. We present sequence data and analysis of 142 EBOV samples collected during the period March to October 2015. We were able to generate results less than 24 h after receiving an Ebola-positive sample, with the sequencing process taking as little as 15–60 min. We show that real-time genomic surveillance is possible in resource-limited settings and can be established rapidly to monitor outbreaks.