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A Recurrent Mutation at Position 26340 of SARS-CoV-2 Is Associated with Failure of the E Gene Quantitative Reverse Transcription-PCR Utilized in a Commercial Dual-Target Diagnostic Assay

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Control of the ongoing severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic requires accurate laboratory testing to identify infected individuals while also clearing essential staff to continue to work. At the current time, a number of quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) assays have been developed to identify SARS-CoV-2, targeting multiple positions in the viral genome. While the mutation rate of SARS-CoV-2 is moderate, given the large number of transmission chains, it is prudent to monitor circulating viruses for variants that might compromise these assays. Here, we report the identification of a C-to-U transition at position 26340 of the SARS-CoV-2 genome that is associated with failure of the cobas SARS-CoV-2 E gene qRT-PCR in eight patients. As the cobas SARS-CoV-2 assay targets two positions in the genome, the individuals carrying this variant were still called SARS-CoV-2 positive. Whole-genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 showed all to carry closely related viruses. Examination of viral genomes deposited on GISAID showed this mutation has arisen independently at least four times. This work highlights the necessity of monitoring SARS-CoV-2 for the emergence of single-nucleotide polymorphisms that might adversely affect RT-PCRs used in diagnostics. Additionally, it argues that two regions in SARS-CoV-2 should be targeted to avoid false negatives.
Journal: Journal of Clinical Microbiology
ISSN: 0095-1137
Issue: 10
Volume: 58
Number of pages: 8
Publication year:2020