Optimizing a whole-genome sequencing data processing pipeline for precision surveillance of health care-associated infections

Weihua Huang, Guiqing Wang, Changhong Yin, Donald Chen, Abhay Dhand, Melissa Chanza, Nevenka Dimitrova, John T. Fallon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The surveillance of health care-associated infection (HAI) is an essential element of the infection control program. While whole-genome sequencing (WGS) has widely been adopted for genomic surveillance, its data processing remains to be improved. Here, we propose a three-level data processing pipeline for the precision genomic surveillance of microorganisms without prior knowledge: species identification, multi-locus sequence typing (MLST), and sub-MLST clustering. The former two are closely connected to what have widely been used in current clinical microbiology laboratories, whereas the latter one provides significantly improved resolution and accuracy in genomic surveillance. Comparing to a broadly used reference-dependent alignment/mapping method and an annotation-dependent pan-/core-genome analysis, we implemented our reference-and annotation-independent, k-mer-based, simplified workflow to a collection of Acinetobacter and Enterococcus clinical isolates for tests. By taking both single nucleotide variants and genomic structural changes into account, the optimized k-mer-based pipeline demonstrated a global view of bacterial population structure in a rapid manner and discriminated the relatedness between bacterial isolates in more detail and precision. The newly developed WGS data processing pipeline would facilitate WGS application to the precision genomic surveillance of HAI. In addition, the results from such a WGS-based analysis would be useful for the precision laboratory diagnosis of infectious microorganisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number388
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Data processing pipeline
  • Genomic surveillance
  • Health care-associated infection (HAI)
  • K-mer
  • Whole-genome sequencing (WGS)


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