CoronaHiT: large scale multiplexing of SARS-CoV-2 genomes using nanopore sequencing

The COVID-19 pandemic has spread to almost every country in the world since it started in China in late 2019. Controlling the pandemic requires a multifaceted approach including whole genome sequencing to support public health interventions at local and national levels. One of the most widely used methods for sequencing is the ARTIC protocol, a tiling PCR approach followed by Oxford Nanopore sequencing (ONT) of up to 24 samples at a time. There is a need for a higher throughput method to reduce cost per genome.

Here we present CoronaHiT, a method capable of multiplexing up to 95 small genomes on a single Nanopore flowcell, which uses transposase mediated addition of adapters and PCR based addition of symmetric barcodes.

We demonstrate the method using 48 and 94 SARS-CoV-2 genomes per flowcell, amplified using the ARTIC protocol, and compare performance with Illumina and ARTIC ONT sequencing. Results demonstrate that all sequencing methods produce inaccurate genomes when the RNA extract from SARS-CoV-2 positive clinical sample has a cycle threshold (Ct) >= 32. Results from set same set of 23 samples with a broad range of Cts show that the consensus genomes have >90% coverage (GISAID criteria) for 78.2% of samples for CoronaHiT-48, 73.9% for CoronaHiT-94, 78.2% for Illumina and 73.9% for ARTIC ONT, and all have the same clustering on a maximum likelihood tree.

In conclusion, we demonstrate that CoronaHiT can multiplex up to 94 SARS-CoV-2 genomes per nanopore flowcell without compromising the quality of the resulting genomes while reducing library preparation complexity and significantly reducing cost. This protocol will aid the rapid expansion of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing globally, to help control the pandemic.

Authors: David J Baker, Gemma L Kay, Alp Aydin, Thanh Le-Viet, Steven Rudder, Ana P Tedim, Anastasia Kolyva, Maria Diaz, Leonardo de Oliveira Martins, Nabil-Fareed Alikhan, Lizzie Meadows, Andrew Bell, Ana Victoria Gutierrez, Alexander J Trotter, Nicholas M Thomson, Rachel Gilroy, Luke Griffith, Evelien M Adriaenssens, Rachael Stanley, Ian G Charles, Ngozi Elumogo, John Wain, Reenesh Prakash, Emma Meader, Alison E Mather, Mark A Webber, Samir Dervisevic, Andrew J Page, Justin O'Grady