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Detecting SARS-CoV-2 variants with SNP genotyping.

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Winfield, Mark 
Finn, Adam 
Davidson, Andrew 


Tracking genetic variations from positive SARS-CoV-2 samples yields crucial information about the number of variants circulating in an outbreak and the possible lines of transmission but sequencing every positive SARS-CoV-2 sample would be prohibitively costly for population-scale test and trace operations. Genotyping is a rapid, high-throughput and low-cost alternative for screening positive SARS-CoV-2 samples in many settings. We have designed a SNP identification pipeline to identify genetic variation using sequenced SARS-CoV-2 samples. Our pipeline identifies a minimal marker panel that can define distinct genotypes. To evaluate the system, we developed a genotyping panel to detect variants-identified from SARS-CoV-2 sequences surveyed between March and May 2020 and tested this on 50 stored qRT-PCR positive SARS-CoV-2 clinical samples that had been collected across the South West of the UK in April 2020. The 50 samples split into 15 distinct genotypes and there was a 61.9% probability that any two randomly chosen samples from our set of 50 would have a distinct genotype. In a high throughput laboratory, qRT-PCR positive samples pooled into 384-well plates could be screened with a marker panel at a cost of < £1.50 per sample. Our results demonstrate the usefulness of a SNP genotyping panel to provide a rapid, cost-effective, and reliable way to monitor SARS-CoV-2 variants circulating in an outbreak. Our analysis pipeline is publicly available and will allow for marker panels to be updated periodically as viral genotypes arise or disappear from circulation.



COVID-19, Genetic Variation, Genotyping Techniques, Humans, Pandemics, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, SARS-CoV-2, United Kingdom

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PLoS One

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Public Library of Science (PLoS)
MRC (MC_PC_19027)
UK Research and Innovation (MC_PC_19027)