Microb Genom. 2021 Apr;7(4). doi: 10.1099/mgen.0.000557.
Outbreak investigations are essential to control and prevent the dissemination of pathogens. This study developed and validated a complete analysis protocol for faster and more accurate surveillance and outbreak investigations of antibiotic-resistant microbes based on Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) DNA whole-genome sequencing. The protocol was developed using 42 methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) isolates identified from former well-characterized outbreaks. The validation of the protocol was performed using Illumina technology (MiSeq, Illumina). Additionally, a real-time outbreak investigation of six clinical S. aureus isolates was conducted to test the ONT-based protocol. The suggested protocol includes: (1) a 20 h sequencing run; (2) identification of the sequence type (ST); (3) de novo genome assembly; (4) polishing of the draft genomes; and (5) phylogenetic analysis based on SNPs. After the sequencing run, it was possible to identify the ST in 2 h (20 min per isolate). Assemblies were achieved after 4 h (40 min per isolate) while the polishing was carried out in 7 min per isolate (42 min in total). The phylogenetic analysis took 0.6 h to confirm an outbreak. Overall, the developed protocol was able to at least discard an outbreak in 27 h (mean) after the bacterial identification and less than 33 h to confirm it. All these estimated times were calculated considering the average time for six MRSA isolates per sequencing run. During the real-time S. aureus outbreak investigation, the protocol was able to identify two outbreaks in less than 31 h. The suggested protocol enables identification of outbreaks in early stages using a portable and low-cost device along with a streamlined downstream analysis, therefore having the potential to be incorporated in routine surveillance analysis workflows. In addition, further analysis may include identification of virulence and antibiotic resistance genes for improved pathogen characterization.