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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Open Access Policy Deposits

This series is automatically populated with publications deposited by UC San Diego Department of Computer Science & Engineering researchers in accordance with the University of California’s open access policies. For more information see Open Access Policy Deposits and the UC Publication Management System.
Cover page of Severe acute respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) screening among symptom-free healthcare workers.

Severe acute respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) screening among symptom-free healthcare workers.

(2022)

Transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) is possible among symptom-free individuals. Patients are avoiding medically necessary healthcare visits for fear of becoming infected in the healthcare setting. We screened 489 symptom-free healthcare workers for SARS-CoV-2 and found no positive results, strongly suggesting that the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 was <1%.

Cover page of The ViReflow pipeline enables user friendly large scale viral consensus genome reconstruction.

The ViReflow pipeline enables user friendly large scale viral consensus genome reconstruction.

(2022)

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, massive sequencing and data sharing efforts enabled the real-time surveillance of novel SARS-CoV-2 strains throughout the world, the results of which provided public health officials with actionable information to prevent the spread of the virus. However, with great sequencing comes great computation, and while cloud computing platforms bring high-performance computing directly into the hands of all who seek it, optimal design and configuration of a cloud compute cluster requires significant system administration expertise. We developed ViReflow, a user-friendly viral consensus sequence reconstruction pipeline enabling rapid analysis of viral sequence datasets leveraging Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud compute resources and the Reflow system. ViReflow was developed specifically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is general to any viral pathogen. Importantly, when utilized with sufficient compute resources, ViReflow can trim, map, call variants, and call consensus sequences from amplicon sequence data from 1000 SARS-CoV-2 samples at 1000X depth in < 10 min, with no user intervention. ViReflow's simplicity, flexibility, and scalability make it an ideal tool for viral molecular epidemiological efforts.

A posteriori dietary patterns better explain variations of the gut microbiome than individual markers in the American Gut Project.

(2022)

Background

Individual diet components and specific dietary regimens have been shown to impact the gut microbiome.

Objectives

Here, we explored the contribution of long-term diet by searching for dietary patterns that would best associate with the gut microbiome in a population-based cohort.

Methods

Using a priori and a posteriori approaches, we constructed dietary patterns from an FFQ completed by 1800 adults in the American Gut Project. Dietary patterns were defined as groups of participants or combinations of food variables (factors) driven by criteria ranging from individual nutrients to overall diet. We associated these patterns with 16S ribosomal RNA-based gut microbiome data for a subset of 744 participants.

Results

Compared to individual features (e.g., fiber and protein), or to factors representing a reduced number of dietary features, 5 a posteriori dietary patterns based on food groups were best associated with gut microbiome beta diversity (P ≤ 0.0002). Two patterns followed Prudent-like diets-Plant-Based and Flexitarian-and exhibited the highest Healthy Eating Index 2010 (HEI-2010) scores. Two other patterns presented Western-like diets with a gradient in HEI-2010 scores. A fifth pattern consisted mostly of participants following an Exclusion diet (e.g., low carbohydrate). Notably, gut microbiome alpha diversity was significantly lower in the most Western pattern compared to the Flexitarian pattern (P ≤ 0.009), and the Exclusion diet pattern was associated with low relative abundance of Bifidobacterium (P ≤ 1.2 × 10-7), which was better explained by diet than health status.

Conclusions

We demonstrated that global-diet a posteriori patterns were more associated with gut microbiome variations than individual dietary features among adults in the United States. These results confirm that evaluating diet as a whole is important when studying the gut microbiome. It will also facilitate the design of more personalized dietary strategies in general populations.

Cover page of Wastewater sequencing uncovers early, cryptic SARS-CoV-2 variant transmission

Wastewater sequencing uncovers early, cryptic SARS-CoV-2 variant transmission

(2021)

Summary

As SARS-CoV-2 continues to spread and evolve, detecting emerging variants early is critical for public health interventions. Inferring lineage prevalence by clinical testing is infeasible at scale, especially in areas with limited resources, participation, or testing/sequencing capacity, which can also introduce biases. SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentration in wastewater successfully tracks regional infection dynamics and provides less biased abundance estimates than clinical testing. Tracking virus genomic sequences in wastewater would improve community prevalence estimates and detect emerging variants. However, two factors limit wastewater-based genomic surveillance: low-quality sequence data and inability to estimate relative lineage abundance in mixed samples. Here, we resolve these critical issues to perform a high-resolution, 295-day wastewater and clinical sequencing effort, in the controlled environment of a large university campus and the broader context of the surrounding county. We develop and deploy improved virus concentration protocols and deconvolution software that fully resolve multiple virus strains from wastewater. We detect emerging variants of concern up to 14 days earlier in wastewater samples, and identify multiple instances of virus spread not captured by clinical genomic surveillance. Our study provides a scalable solution for wastewater genomic surveillance that allows early detection of SARS-CoV-2 variants and identification of cryptic transmission.

Microbial co-occurrence complicates associations of gut microbiome with US immigration, dietary intake and obesity.

(2021)

Background

Obesity and related comorbidities are major health concerns among many US immigrant populations. Emerging evidence suggests a potential involvement of the gut microbiome. Here, we evaluated gut microbiome features and their associations with immigration, dietary intake, and obesity in 2640 individuals from a population-based study of US Hispanics/Latinos.

Results

The fecal shotgun metagenomics data indicate that greater US exposure is associated with reduced ɑ-diversity, reduced functions of fiber degradation, and alterations in individual taxa, potentially related to a westernized diet. However, a majority of gut bacterial genera show paradoxical associations, being reduced with US exposure and increased with fiber intake, but increased with obesity. The observed paradoxical associations are not explained by host characteristics or variation in bacterial species but might be related to potential microbial co-occurrence, as seen by positive correlations among Roseburia, Prevotella, Dorea, and Coprococcus. In the conditional analysis with mutual adjustment, including all genera associated with both obesity and US exposure in the same model, the positive associations of Roseburia and Prevotella with obesity did not persist, suggesting that their positive associations with obesity might be due to their co-occurrence and correlations with obesity-related taxa, such as Dorea and Coprococcus.

Conclusions

Among US Hispanics/Latinos, US exposure is associated with unfavorable gut microbiome profiles for obesity risk, potentially related to westernized diet during acculturation. Microbial co-occurrence could be an important factor to consider in future studies relating individual gut microbiome taxa to environmental factors and host health and disease.

SARS-CoV-2 Distribution in Residential Housing Suggests Contact Deposition and Correlates with Rothia sp.

(2021)

Monitoring severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) on surfaces is emerging as an important tool for identifying past exposure to individuals shedding viral RNA. Our past work has demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) signals from surfaces can identify when infected individuals have touched surfaces such as Halloween candy, and when they have been present in hospital rooms or schools. However, the sensitivity and specificity of surface sampling as a method for detecting the presence of a SARS-CoV-2 positive individual, as well as guidance about where to sample, has not been established. To address these questions, and to test whether our past observations linking SARS-CoV-2 abundance to Rothia spp. in hospitals also hold in a residential setting, we performed detailed spatial sampling of three isolation housing units, assessing each sample for SARS-CoV-2 abundance by RT-qPCR, linking the results to 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequences to assess the bacterial community at each location and to the Cq value of the contemporaneous clinical test. Our results show that the highest SARS-CoV-2 load in this setting is on touched surfaces such as light switches and faucets, but detectable signal is present in many non-touched surfaces that may be more relevant in settings such as schools where mask wearing is enforced. As in past studies, the bacterial community predicts which samples are positive for SARS-CoV-2, with Rothia sp. showing a positive association. IMPORTANCE: Surface sampling for detecting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is increasingly being used to locate infected individuals. We tested which indoor surfaces had high versus low viral loads by collecting 381 samples from three residential units where infected individuals resided, and interpreted the results in terms of whether SARS-CoV-2 was likely transmitted directly (e.g. touching a light switch) or indirectly (e.g. by droplets or aerosols settling). We found highest loads where the subject touched the surface directly, although enough virus was detected on indirectly contacted surfaces to make such locations useful for sampling (e.g. in schools, where students do not touch the light switches and also wear masks so they have no opportunity to touch their face and then the object). We also documented links between the bacteria present in a sample and the SARS-CoV-2 virus, consistent with earlier studies.

Clean room microbiome complexity impacts planetary protection bioburden.

(2021)

Background

The Spacecraft Assembly Facility (SAF) at the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is the primary cleanroom facility used in the construction of some of the planetary protection (PP)-sensitive missions developed by NASA, including the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover that launched in July 2020. SAF floor samples (n=98) were collected, over a 6-month period in 2016 prior to the construction of the Mars rover subsystems, to better understand the temporal and spatial distribution of bacterial populations (total, viable, cultivable, and spore) in this unique cleanroom.

Results

Cleanroom samples were examined for total (living and dead) and viable (living only) microbial populations using molecular approaches and cultured isolates employing the traditional NASA standard spore assay (NSA), which predominantly isolated spores. The 130 NSA isolates were represented by 16 bacterial genera, of which 97% were identified as spore-formers via Sanger sequencing. The most spatially abundant isolate was Bacillus subtilis, and the most temporally abundant spore-former was Virgibacillus panthothenticus. The 16S rRNA gene-targeted amplicon sequencing detected 51 additional genera not found in the NSA method. The amplicon sequencing of the samples treated with propidium monoazide (PMA), which would differentiate between viable and dead organisms, revealed a total of 54 genera: 46 viable non-spore forming genera and 8 viable spore forming genera in these samples. The microbial diversity generated by the amplicon sequencing corresponded to ~86% non-spore-formers and ~14% spore-formers. The most common spatially distributed genera were Sphinigobium, Geobacillus, and Bacillus whereas temporally distributed common genera were Acinetobacter, Geobacilllus, and Bacillus. Single-cell genomics detected 6 genera in the sample analyzed, with the most prominent being Acinetobacter.

Conclusion

This study clearly established that detecting spores via NSA does not provide a complete assessment for the cleanliness of spacecraft-associated environments since it failed to detect several PP-relevant genera that were only recovered via molecular methods. This highlights the importance of a methodological paradigm shift to appropriately monitor bioburden in cleanrooms for not only the aeronautical industry but also for pharmaceutical, medical industries, etc., and the need to employ molecular sequencing to complement traditional culture-based assays. Video abstract.

The Fecal Microbiome and Metabolome of Pitt Hopkins Syndrome, a Severe Autism Spectrum Disorder.

(2021)

Alterations to the gut microbiome have been reported between children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and typically developing (TD) children. Characterizing these differences has led to the proposal of new treatments for ASD, such as probiotic interventions and fecal matter transplants. However, no study to date has characterized the gut microbiome or metabolome in Pitt Hopkins syndrome (PTHS), a severe ASD with a high incidence of gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances such as constipation. Here, we surveyed the gut microbiome and metabolome in a cohort of PTHS individuals and their unaffected parents. We focused our analysis on Clostridium bolteae, a microbe previously associated with ASD known to chemically modify bile acids in the gut. PTHS individuals carry a higher load of C. bolteae than their parents as well as both ASD and non-ASD individuals from the American Gut Project cohort. Specific metabolites were associated with PTHS, including bile acids and sphingosines. With a metadata reanalysis tool, we found that PTHS-associated metabolites have previously been identified in inflammatory bowel disease and obesity patients. These results suggest microbial involvement in PTHS, but further research must be performed to clarify the exact mechanisms through which microbes may act. Furthermore, new associations between PTHS-specific metabolites and other conditions may lead to additional therapeutic options for PTHS individuals. IMPORTANCE GI disturbances in ASD such as severe constipation can be medically significant and often require medication. This is especially true for individuals with PTHS, suggesting that the gut microbiome may be involved in PTHS's pathology. Revealing associations between specific gut microbes and PTHS may allow the development of new therapeutics or the application of existing therapeutics to ease day-to-day challenges encountered by PTHS individuals. In this study, we characterized an association between C. bolteae and PTHS, in addition to metabolites linked to both PTHS and C. bolteae. We also identified other microbiome-involved medical conditions where PTHS-associated metabolites have been isolated. Utilizing common metabolites to identify conditions with similar phenotypes may suggest new therapeutic options for GI-related symptoms.

Cover page of Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 RNA Persistence across Indoor Surface Materials Reveals Best Practices for Environmental Monitoring Programs.

Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 RNA Persistence across Indoor Surface Materials Reveals Best Practices for Environmental Monitoring Programs.

(2021)

Environmental monitoring in public spaces can be used to identify surfaces contaminated by persons with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and inform appropriate infection mitigation responses. Research groups have reported detection of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) on surfaces days or weeks after the virus has been deposited, making it difficult to estimate when an infected individual may have shed virus onto a SARS-CoV-2-positive surface, which in turn complicates the process of establishing effective quarantine measures. In this study, we determined that reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) detection of viral RNA from heat-inactivated particles experiences minimal decay over 7 days of monitoring on eight out of nine surfaces tested. The properties of the studied surfaces result in RT-qPCR signatures that can be segregated into two material categories, rough and smooth, where smooth surfaces have a lower limit of detection. RT-qPCR signal intensity (average quantification cycle [Cq]) can be correlated with surface viral load using only one linear regression model per material category. The same experiment was performed with untreated viral particles on one surface from each category, with essentially identical results. The stability of RT-qPCR viral signal demonstrates the need to clean monitored surfaces after sampling to establish temporal resolution. Additionally, these findings can be used to minimize the number of materials and time points tested and allow for the use of heat-inactivated viral particles when optimizing environmental monitoring methods. IMPORTANCE Environmental monitoring is an important tool for public health surveillance, particularly in settings with low rates of diagnostic testing. Time between sampling public environments, such as hospitals or schools, and notifying stakeholders of the results should be minimal, allowing decisions to be made toward containing outbreaks of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The Safer At School Early Alert program (SASEA) (https://saseasystem.org/), a large-scale environmental monitoring effort in elementary school and child care settings, has processed >13,000 surface samples for SARS-CoV-2, detecting viral signals from 574 samples. However, consecutive detection events necessitated the present study to establish appropriate response practices around persistent viral signals on classroom surfaces. Other research groups and clinical labs developing environmental monitoring methods may need to establish their own correlation between RT-qPCR results and viral load, but this work provides evidence justifying simplified experimental designs, like reduced testing materials and the use of heat-inactivated viral particles.

Comparison of fecal and oral collection methods for studies of the human microbiota in two Iranian cohorts.

(2021)

Background

To initiate fecal and oral collections in prospective cohort studies for microbial analyses, it is essential to understand how field conditions and geographic differences may impact microbial communities. This study aimed to investigate the impact of fecal and oral sample collection methods and room temperature storage on collection samples for studies of the human microbiota.

Results

We collected fecal and oral samples from participants in two Iranian cohorts located in rural Yazd (n = 46) and urban Gonbad (n = 38) and investigated room temperature stability over 4 days of fecal (RNAlater and fecal occult blood test [FOBT] cards) and comparability of fecal and oral (OMNIgene ORAL kits and Scope mouthwash) collection methods. We calculated interclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) based on 3 alpha and 4 beta diversity metrics and the relative abundance of 3 phyla. After 4 days at room temperature, fecal stability ICCs and ICCs for Scope mouthwash were generally high for all microbial metrics. Similarly, the fecal comparability ICCs for RNAlater and FOBT cards were high, ranging from 0.63 (95% CI: 0.46, 0.75) for the relative abundance of Firmicutes to 0.93 (95% CI: 0.89, 0.96) for unweighted Unifrac. Comparability ICCs for OMNIgene ORAL and Scope mouthwash were lower than fecal ICCs, ranging from 0.55 (95% CI: 0.36, 0.70) for the Shannon index to 0.79 (95% CI: 0.69, 0.86) for Bray-Curtis. Overall, RNAlater, FOBT cards and Scope mouthwash were stable up to 4 days at room temperature. Samples collected using FOBT cards were generally comparable to RNAlater while the OMNIgene ORAL were less similar to Scope mouthwash.

Conclusions

As microbiome measures for feces samples collected using RNAlater, FOBT cards and oral samples collected using Scope mouthwash were stable over four days at room temperature, these would be most appropriate for microbial analyses in these populations. However, one collection method should be consistently since each method may induce some differences.