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Ultrasensitive capture of human herpes simplex virus genomes directly from clinical samples reveals extraordinarily limited evolution in cell culture

By Alexander Greninger, Pavitra Roychoudhury, Hong Xie, Amanda Casto, Anne Cent, Gregory Pepper, David M. Koelle, Meei-Li Huang, Anna Wald, Christine Johnston, Keith R Jerome

Posted 25 May 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/330860 (published DOI: 10.1128/mSphereDirect.00283-18)

Herpes simplex viruses (HSV) are difficult to sequence due to their large DNA genome, high GC content, and the presence of repeats. To date, most HSV genomes have been recovered from culture isolates, raising concern that these genomes may not accurately represent circulating clinical strains. We report the development and validation of a DNA oligonucleotide hybridization panel to recover near complete HSV genomes at abundances up to 50,000-fold lower than previously reported. Using copy number information on herpesvirus and host DNA background via quantitative PCR, we developed a protocol for pooling for cost-effective recovery of more than 50 HSV-1 or HSV-2 genomes per MiSeq run. We demonstrate the ability to recover >99% of the HSV genome at >100X coverage in 72 hours at viral loads that allow whole genome recovery from latently-infected ganglia. We also report a new computational pipeline for rapid HSV genome assembly and annotation. Using the above tools and a series of 17 HSV-1-positive clinical swabs sent to our laboratory for viral isolation, we show limited evolution of HSV-1 during viral isolation in human fibroblast cells compared to the original clinical samples. Our data indicate that previous studies using low passage clinical isolates of herpes simplex viruses are reflective of the viral sequences present in the lesion and thus can be used in phylogenetic analyses. We also detect superinfection within a single sample with unrelated HSV-1 strains recovered from separate oral lesions in an immunosuppressed patient during a 2.5-week period, illustrating the power of direct-from-specimen sequencing of HSV.

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