Quality control of low-frequency variants in SARS-CoV-2 genomes

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Mikhail Rayko, A. Komissarov


During the current outbreak of COVID-19, research labs around the globe submit sequences of the local SARS-CoV-2 genomes to the GISAID database to provide a comprehensive analysis of the variability and spread of the virus during the outbreak. We explored the variations in the submitted genomes and found a significant number of variants that can be seen only in one submission (singletons). While it is not completely clear whether these variants are erroneous or not, these variants show lower transition/transversion ratio. These singleton variants may influence the estimations of the viral mutation rate and tree topology. We suggest that genomes with multiple singletons even marked as high-covered should be considered with caution. We also provide a simple script for checking variant frequency against the database before submission.

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