Irish Coronavirus Sequencing Consortium
The Irish Coronavirus Sequencing Consortium is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and led by Professor Paul Cotter from Teagasc Moorepark. The aim of the project is to sequence or “read” the genetic information of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This will allow us to track the spread of the virus and any changes in its genetic sequence which may affect the disease or treatment.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus contains genetic information that can change over time. If we can track those changes, we can map how the virus spreads across regions. This can support efforts to respond to clusters of infections as they arise and minimise the spread of the virus. Collecting the sequences of the viruses in Ireland will also mean we can pick up on important new changes that could affect the ability of the virus to cause disease or to evade treatments or vaccines.
What will the research project do?
Science Foundation Ireland has funded a national consortium led by the Teagasc/APC Microbiome Ireland Sequencing Centre at Moorepark working alongside partners at Teagasc research centres at Grange and Oak Park, University College Cork, Cork University Hospital, the National Virus Reference Laboratory, University College Dublin, University Hospital Limerick, Beaumont hospital, Trinity College Dublin, NUI Galway and NUI Maynooth. Two private companies, Genuity Ireland and Helixworks are also supporting the initiative. This consortium will sequence the RNA of viruses isolated from samples of patients who have lab-confirmed infections of COVID-19 and make the sequence information freely available for analysis.
The consortium will specifically select the virus sequences from the patient samples, and detect those tiny fragments through the use of the latest sequencing technology from Oxford Nanopore. The sequences of the DNA fragments are “read” as changes in current when they pass through pores in the instrumentation. These fragments are assembled, like a jigsaw, using specific computing programmes to generate the full picture of the sequence of the virus, or genome. This genome can then be compared to samples sequenced from Ireland an internationally to track the spread of the virus and investigate the mutation rate as it spreads around the globe.
Dr. Fiona Crispie, researcher at Teagasc Moorepark, loading samples on the Oxford Nanopore MinION
Ethical approval for the project was provided by the National Research Ethics Committee, and a waiver for the use of previously collected patient samples was provided by the Health Research Consent Declaration Committee. If you would like to know more about how patient samples are used in the project, and how we have protected patient anonymity please read our Patient Information Documents: