DOI: 10.1128/jcm.00103-22 ISSN: 0095-1137

Rapid, high-throughput, cost-effective whole-genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 using a condensed library preparation of the Illumina DNA Prep kit

Rebecca Hickman, Jason Nguyen, Tracy D. Lee, John R. Tyson, Robert Azana, Frankie Tsang, Linda Hoang, Natalie A. Prystajecky
  • Microbiology (medical)


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic necessitates cost-effective, high-throughput, and timely whole-genome sequencing (WGS) of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) viruses for outbreak investigations, identifying variants of concern (VoC), characterizing vaccine breakthrough infections, and public health surveillance. In addition, the enormous demand for WGS on supply chains and the resulting shortages of laboratory supplies necessitated the use of low-reagent and low-consumable methods. Here, we report an optimized library preparation method (the BCCDC cutdown method) that can be used in a high-throughput scenario, where one technologist can perform 576 library preparations (6 plates of 96 samples) over the course of one 8-hour shift. The same protocol can also be used in a rapid turnaround time scenario, from primary samples (up to 96 samples) to loading on a sequencer in an 8-hour shift. This new method uses Freed et al.’s 1,200 bp primer sets (Biol Methods Protoc 5:bpaa014, 2020, ) and a modified and condensed Illumina DNA Prep workflow (Illumina, CA, USA). Compared to the original protocol, the application of this new method using hundreds of clinical specimens demonstrated equivalent results to the full-length DNA Prep workflow at 45% of the cost, 15% of consumables required (such as pipet tips), 25% of manual hands-on time, and 15% of on-instrument time if performing on a liquid handler, with no compromise in sequence quality. Results demonstrate that this new method is a rapid, simple, cost-effective, and high-quality SARS-CoV-2 WGS protocol.


Sequencing has played an invaluable role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ongoing work in this area, however, demands optimization of laboratory workflow to increase sequencing capacity, improve turnaround time, and reduce cost without compromising sequence quality. This report describes an optimized DNA library preparation method for improved whole-genome sequencing of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pathogen. The workflow advantages summarized here include significant time, cost, and consumable savings, which suggest that this new method is an efficient, scalable, and pragmatic alternative for SARS-CoV-2 whole-genome sequencing.

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