A new cost-effective method to sequence genomes of the Ebola virus may eventually lead to quicker surveillance of the disease and effectively keep track of the outbreak even with limited resources.
“Since the cost of preparation and sequencing is relatively low, and samples are the most precious commodity, our approach provides a great initial strategy for sequencing viral samples,” said lead author Christian Matranga from the Broad Institute in the US.
Detecting viral RNA genomes in suspected fever patients helps confirm diagnoses of Ebola, and aids decisions to quarantine patients and begin tracing their contacts.
Yet sequencing viral genomes directly from blood samples holds many challenges.
Samples contain very little viral RNA and are heavily contaminated with human RNA, while hot climates cause rapid degradation of viral RNA material and biosafety measures bring further complications for handling samples.
The new method to sequence genomes of the Ebola virus, that lowers contaminating human RNA from 80 percent to less than 0.5 percent.
It was proven to work through the rapid sequencing of nearly 100 Ebola patient blood samples from the current outbreak, with a turnaround time of 10 days.
Using their improved sequencing approach, the team processed samples from 78 Ebola patients and reduced the normal length of the process threefold.
Their method also lowered costs by allowing them to sequence and assemble more viral genomes using fewer steps with a higher success rate.
The new approach could also uncover unknown strains of the virus.The findings appeared in the journal Genome Biology.