• Mining Public Metagenomes for Environmental Surveillance of Parasites: A Proof of Principle.

      Franssen, Frits F J; Janse, Ingmar; Janssen, Dennis; Caccio, Simone M; Vatta, Paolo; van der Giessen, Joke W B; van Passel, Mark W J (2021-06-30)
      Parasites often have complex developmental cycles that account for their presence in a variety of difficult-to-analyze matrices, including feces, water, soil, and food. Detection of parasites in these matrices still involves laborious methods. Untargeted sequencing of nucleic acids extracted from those matrices in metagenomic projects may represent an attractive alternative method for unbiased detection of these pathogens. Here, we show how publicly available metagenomic datasets can be mined to detect parasite specific sequences, and generate data useful for environmental surveillance. We use the protozoan parasite Cryptosporidium parvum as a test organism, and show that detection is influenced by the reference sequence chosen. Indeed, the use of the whole genome yields high sensitivity but low specificity, whereas specificity is improved through the use of signature sequences. In conclusion, querying metagenomic datasets for parasites is feasible and relevant, but requires optimization and validation. Nevertheless, this approach provides access to the large, and rapidly increasing, number of datasets from metagenomic and meta-transcriptomic studies, allowing unlocking hitherto idle signals of parasites in our environments.