Oxford Nanopore MinION sequencing enables rapid whole-genome assembly of Rickettsia typhi in a resource-limited setting
Elliott I., Batty E., Ming D., Robinson M., Nawtaisong P., de Cesare M., Newton P., Bowden R.
The infrastructure challenges and costs of next-generation sequencing have been largely overcome, for many sequencing applications, by Oxford Nanopore Technologies portable MinION sequencer. However the question remains open whether MinION-based bacterial whole-genome sequencing (WGS) is by itself sufficient for the accurate assessment of phylogenetic and epidemiological relationships between isolates and whether such tasks can be undertaken in resource-limited settings. To investigate this question, we sequenced the genome of an isolate of Rickettsia typhi, an important and neglected cause of fever across much of the tropics and subtropics, for which only three genomic sequences previously existed. We prepared and sequenced libraries on a MinION in Vientiane, Lao PDR using v9.5 chemistry and in parallel we sequenced the same isolate on the Illumina platform in a genomics laboratory in the UK. The MinION sequence reads yielded a single contiguous assembly, in which the addition of Illumina data revealed 226 base-substitution and 5,856 in/del errors. The combined assembly represents the first complete genome sequence of a human R. typhi isolate collected in the last 50 years and differed from the genomes of existing strains collected over a 90-year time period at very few sites, and with no re-arrangements. Filtering based on the known error profile of MinION data improved the accuracy of the Nanopore-only assembly. However, the frequency of false-positive errors remained greater than true sequence divergence from recorded sequences. While Nanopore-only sequencing cannot yet recover phylogenetic signal in R. typhi, such an approach may be applicable for more diverse organisms.