Metagenomic next-generation sequencing (mNGS) offers a hypothesis-free approach for pathogen detection, but its applicability in clinical diagnosis, in addition to other factors, remains limited due to complicated library construction. The present study describes a PCR-free isothermal workflow for mNGS targeting RNA, based on a multiple displacement amplification, termed circular whole-transcriptome amplification (cWTA), as the template is circularized before amplification. The cWTA approach was validated with clinical samples and nanopore sequencing. Reads homologous to dengue virus 2 and chikungunya virus were detected in clinical samples from Bangladesh and Brazil, respectively. In addition, the practicality of a high-throughput detection system that combines mNGS and a group testing algorithm termed mNGS screening enhanced by a group testing algorithm (mEGA) was established. This approach enabled significant library size reduction while permitting trackability between samples and diagnostic results. Serum samples of patients with undifferentiated febrile illnesses from Vietnam (n = 43) were also amplified with cWTA, divided into 11 pools, processed for library construction, and sequenced. Dengue virus 2, hepatitis B virus, and parvovirus B19 were successfully detected without prior knowledge of their existence. Collectively, cWTA with the nanopore platform opens the possibility of hypothesis-free on-site comprehensive pathogen diagnosis, while mEGA contributes to the scaling up of sample throughput.
- comprehensive pathogen detection
- febrile illness
- group testing algorithm
- multiple displacement amplification