Zymo Research has released the VirSieve™ Bioinformatics Pipeline source code to the environmental microbiology community to promote global collaboration and support for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 variants in wastewater.
VirSieve™ is an automated computational pipeline that analyzes sequencing reads from the SARS-CoV-2 virus in wastewater samples to better understand viral variants present in monitored communities. By rating the confidence interval in observed viral mutations, the software has the potential to significantly increase the accuracy of analyzing any changes in the viral genetic material.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the deployment of vaccines has had a tremendous positive impact on curbing the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic within the USA, new viral strains are still emerging. Some of these strains, e.g., B.1.1.7, are classified as "variants of concern" due to evidence of increased spread, pathogenicity, or vaccine evasion. Wastewater Next-Gen Sequencing is emerging as the most viable solution for near real-time community surveillance.
Viral sequencing from wastewater is difficult due to fragmentation and degradation of the viral RNA, often resulting in sequencing errors that ultimately manifest as false mutations. VirSieve™ can identify these false variants and mark them as being low or no confidence, allowing researchers to filter mutations with a higher degree of support. Zymo Research also provides DNA/RNA Shield™, a reagent that safeguards viral RNA from further degradation after inactivation of any virus for safe, ambient temperature collection and transportation of wastewater samples.
"Zymo Research has previously developed public software tools like the Zymo Research Transmit Program, an open-source client for submitting COVID-19 test results through the CalREDIE public health reporting system," said Dr. Michael Weinstein, Director of Laboratory Information Systems, and Project Lead on the VirSieve™ Pipeline project at Zymo Research. "VirSieve™ is part of Zymo Research's ongoing effort to provide maximum support to pandemic response efforts around the globe. We feel VirSieve™ has the potential to be used not only for tracking variant strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in wastewater but other viruses as well, for future public health efforts."
"Getting accurate variants from clinical samples or sewage is key to proper placement of a viral strain in the context of all other viral variants and informing pathogen tracking efforts," said Dr. Christopher Mason, who is a paid speaker for Zymo Research and is the co-director of the WorldQuant Institute for Quantitative Prediction and a professor of physiology and biophysics at Weill Cornell Medicine.