A Comprehensive Genomics Solution for HIV Surveillance and Clinical Monitoring in Low-Income Settings
Bonsall D., Golubchik T., de Cesare M., Limbada M., Kosloff B., MacIntyre-Cockett G., Hall M., Wymant C., Ansari MA., Abeler-Dörner L., Schaap A., Brown A., Barnes E., Piwowar-Manning E., Eshleman S., Wilson E., Emel L., Hayes R., Fidler S., Ayles H., Bowden R., Fraser C.
ABSTRACT Viral genetic sequencing can be used to monitor the spread of HIV drug resistance, identify appropriate antiretroviral regimes, and characterize transmission dynamics. Despite decreasing costs, next-generation sequencing (NGS) is still prohibitively costly for routine use in generalized HIV epidemics in low- and middle-income countries. Here, we present veSEQ-HIV, a high-throughput, cost-effective NGS sequencing method and computational pipeline tailored specifically to HIV, which can be performed using leftover blood drawn for routine CD4 cell count testing. This method overcomes several major technical challenges that have prevented HIV sequencing from being used routinely in public health efforts; it is fast, robust, and cost-efficient, and generates full genomic sequences of diverse strains of HIV without bias. The complete veSEQ-HIV pipeline provides viral load estimates and quantitative summaries of drug resistance mutations; it also exploits information on within-host viral diversity to construct directed transmission networks. We evaluated the method’s performance using 1,620 plasma samples collected from individuals attending 10 large urban clinics in Zambia as part of the HPTN 071-2 study (PopART Phylogenetics). Whole HIV genomes were recovered from 91% of samples with a viral load of >1,000 copies/ml. The cost of the assay (30 GBP per sample) compares favorably with existing VL and HIV genotyping tests, proving an affordable option for combining HIV clinical monitoring with molecular epidemiology and drug resistance surveillance in low-income settings.