Comparison of single-nucleotide variants identified by Illumina and Oxford Nanopore technologies in the context of a potential outbreak of Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli

A comparison between short-read and long-read nanopore sequencing data from two isolates of E.coli STEC O157:H7 was used to determine the concordance of SNP calling between the two technologies. From DNA extraction to result, the nanopore sequencing and variant detection workflow was completed 33 hours faster (7 hours vs 40 hours). The authors concluded that SNP typing was robust on the MinION.

We aimed to compare Illumina and Oxford Nanopore Technology sequencing data from the 2 isolates of Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 to determine whether concordant single-nucleotide variants were identified and whether inference of relatedness was consistent with the 2 technologies.

For the Illumina workflow, the time from DNA extraction to availability of results was ∼40 hours, whereas with the ONT workflow serotyping and Shiga toxin subtyping variant identification were available within 7 hours. After optimization of the ONT variant filtering, on average 95% of the discrepant positions between the technologies were accounted for by methylated positions found in the described 5-methylcytosine motif sequences, CC(A/T)GG. Of the few discrepant variants (6 and 7 difference for the 2 isolates) identified by the 2 technologies, it is likely that both methodologies contain false calls.

Despite these discrepancies, Illumina and Oxford Nanopore Technology sequences from the same case were placed on the same phylogenetic location against a dense reference database of STEC O157:H7 genomes sequenced using the Illumina workflow. Robust single-nucleotide polymorphism typing using MinION-based variant calling is possible, and we provide evidence that the 2 technologies can be used interchangeably to type STEC O157:H7 in a public health setting.

Authors: David R Greig, Claire Jenkins, Saheer Gharbia, Timothy J Dallman