Simultaneous detection and mutation surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 and multiple respiratory viruses by rapid field-deployable sequencing

Med (N Y). 2021 Jun 11;2(6):689-700.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.medj.2021.03.015. Epub 2021 Mar 31.


Background: Strategies for monitoring the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection are crucial for combating the pandemic. Detection and mutation surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses require separate and complex workflows that rely on highly specialized facilities, personnel, and reagents. To date, no method can rapidly diagnose multiple viral infections and determine variants in a high-throughput manner.

Methods: We describe a method for multiplex isothermal amplification-based sequencing and real-time analysis of multiple viral genomes, termed nanopore sequencing of isothermal rapid viral amplification for near real-time analysis (NIRVANA). It can simultaneously detect SARS-CoV-2, influenza A, human adenovirus, and human coronavirus and monitor mutations for up to 96 samples in real time.

Findings: NIRVANA showed high sensitivity and specificity for SARS-CoV-2 in 70 clinical samples with a detection limit of 20 viral RNA copies per μL of extracted nucleic acid. It also detected the influenza A co-infection in two samples. The variant analysis results of SARS-CoV-2-positive samples mirror the epidemiology of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Additionally, NIRVANA could simultaneously detect SARS-CoV-2 and pepper mild mottle virus (PMMoV) (an omnipresent virus and water-quality indicator) in municipal wastewater samples.

Conclusions: NIRVANA provides high-confidence detection of both SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses and mutation surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 on the fly. We expect it to offer a promising solution for rapid field-deployable detection and mutational surveillance of pandemic viruses.

Funding: M.L. is supported by KAUST Office of Sponsored Research (BAS/1/1080-01). This work is supported by KAUST Competitive Research Grant (URF/1/3412-01-01; M.L. and J.C.I.B.) and Universidad Catolica San Antonio de Murcia (J.C.I.B.). A.M.H. is supported by Saudi Ministry of Education (project 436).

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; adenovirus; co-infection; influenza; isothermal amplification; mutation surveillance; nanopore sequencing; real-time pathogen detection; variant virus sequencing; wastewater.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human* / epidemiology
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics