Antimicrobial resistance prediction and phylogenetic analysis of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates using the Oxford Nanopore MinION sequencer

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Neisseria gonorrhoeae is common, compromising gonorrhoea treatment internationally. Rapid characterisation of AMR strains could ensure appropriate and personalised treatment, and support identification and investigation of gonorrhoea outbreaks in nearly real-time. Whole-genome sequencing is ideal for investigation of emergence and dissemination of AMR determinants, predicting AMR, in the gonococcal population and spread of AMR strains in the human population. The novel, rapid and revolutionary long-read sequencer MinION is a small hand-held device that generates bacterial genomes within one day. However, accuracy of MinION reads has been suboptimal for many objectives and the MinION has not been evaluated for gonococci. In this first MinION study for gonococci, we show that MinION-derived sequences analysed with existing open-access, web-based sequence analysis tools are not sufficiently accurate to identify key gonococcal AMR determinants. Nevertheless, using an in house-developed CLC Genomics Workbench including de novo assembly and optimised BLAST algorithms, we show that 2D ONT-derived sequences can be used for accurate prediction of decreased susceptibility or resistance to recommended antimicrobials in gonococcal isolates. We also show that the 2D ONT-derived sequences are useful for rapid phylogenomic-based molecular epidemiological investigations, and, in hybrid assemblies with Illumina sequences, for producing contiguous assemblies and finished reference genomes.

Authors: Daniel Golparian, Valentina Donà, Leonor Sánchez-Busó, Sunniva Foerster, Simon Harris, Andrea Endimiani, Nicola Low, Magnus Unemo