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bioRxiv Preprint

In this paper, deep learning is coupled with explainable artificial intelligence techniques for the discovery of representative genomic sequences in SARS-CoV-2. A convolutional neural network classifier is first trained on 553 sequences from available repositories, separating the genome of different virus strains from the Coronavirus family with considerable accuracy. The networks behavior is then analyzed, to discover sequences used by the model to identify SARS-CoV-2, ultimately uncovering sequences exclusive to it. The discovered sequences are first validated on samples from other repositories, and proven able to separate SARS-CoV-2 from different virus strains with near-perfect accuracy. Next, one of the sequences is selected to generate a primer set, and tested against other state-of-the-art primer sets on existing datasets, obtaining competitive results. Finally, the primer is synthesized and tested on patient samples (n=6 previously tested positive), delivering a sensibility similar to routine diagnostic methods, and 100% specificity. In this paper, deep learning is coupled with explainable artificial intelligence techniques for the discovery of representative genomic sequences in SARS-CoV-2. A convolutional neural network classifier is first trained on 553 sequences from NGDC, separating the genome of different virus strains from the Coronavirus family with accuracy 98.73%. The networks behavior is then analyzed, to discover sequences used by the model to identify SARS-CoV-2, ultimately uncovering sequences exclusive to it. The discovered sequences are validated on samples from NCBI and GISAID, and proven able to separate SARS-CoV-2 from different virus strains with near-perfect accuracy. Next, one of the sequences is selected to generate a primer set, and tested against other state-of-the-art primer sets, obtaining competitive results. Finally, the primer is synthesized and tested on patient samples (n=6 previously tested positive), delivering a sensibility similar to routine diagnostic methods, and 100% specificity. The proposed methodology has a substantial added value over existing methods, as it is able to both identify promising primer sets for a virus from a limited amount of data, and deliver effective results in a minimal amount of time. Considering the possibility of future pandemics, these characteristics are invaluable to promptly create specific detection methods for diagnostics.

Lopez-Rincon, A.; Tonda, A.; Mendoza-Maldonado, L.; Mulders, D.; Molenkamp, R.; Perez-Romero, C. A.; Claassen, E.; Garssen, J.; Kraneveld, A. D.

2020-09-10