High prevalence of cardiotropic viruses in endomyocardial biopsies from patients with inflammatory cardiomyopathy demonstrated by a novel targeted NGS approach

Christian Baumeier (Berlin)1, D. Harms (Berlin)2, G. Aleshcheva (Berlin)1, B. Altmann (Berlin)2, C.-T. Bock (Berlin)2, F. Escher (Berlin)3, H.-P. Schultheiss (Berlin)1

1IKDT - Institut Kardiale Diagnostik und Therapie GmbH Berlin, Deutschland; 2Robert-Koch Institut FG 15 Virale Gastroenteritis- und Hepatitiserreger und Enteroviren Berlin, Deutschland; 3Deutsches Herzzentrum der Charite (DHZC) Klinik für Kardiologie, Angiologie und Intensivmedizin, CVK Berlin, Deutschland


Background: Viral infection of the heart muscle is a common cause of myocarditis and viral persistence can lead to chronic inflammatory cardiomyopathies (DCMi). A number of viruses including parvovirus B19 (B19V), adenovirus (AdV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), herpes virus 6 (HHV-6), and enteroviruses (EV) are known to infect the myocardium, but their prevalence and role in persisting DCMi are not well understood. Virological etiologies can only be determined via endomyocardial biopsy (EMB), but the miniscule tissue amount limits the number of conventional viral nucleic acid tests (virus-specific PCR) that can be performed in parallel. This study aimed to detect known and novel cardiotropic viruses in EMB of DCMi patients using a targeted next generation sequencing (NGS) approach.

A cohort of 33 DCMi patients (LVEF=29±12%) were retrospectively analyzed and compared to previous results of virus-specific PCR. DNA and RNA extracted from EMB were used for sequencing library preparation, and viral nucleic acids were enriched via a custom myBaits hybridization capture approach. Enriched libraries were sequenced on an Illumina MiSeq™ platform in paired-end mode (500.000 reads/sample), and reads were taxonomically classified via Kraken2 and mapped against viral reference genomes using BWA-MEM2 or HiSat2 and subsequently deduplicated. Viral reads detected via both Kraken2 and mapping were classified as valid.

: Targeted NGS confirmed 19 out of 22 (86%) of the previous PCR-based viral detections. However, NGS was used to detect B19V DNA and RNA in an additional 11 and 15 patient samples respectively; CMV DNA/RNA in additional 5 and 4 samples respectively; EBV DNA/RNA in additional 5 and 1 samples respectively; and HHV-6 DNA/RNA in additional 3 and 1 samples respectively. Furthermore, viral reads of adenovirus type 2, adenovirus-associated virus type 2 (AAV-2), herpes viruses 7 and 8, and human parvovirus 4 were also found among the cohort. Thus, targeted NGS was able to identify 81 viral infections in a cohort of 33 DCMi patients, while only 22 were found using routine PCR tests.

The presented NGS method represents a powerful new tool for the diagnosis of viral and inflammatory heart disease. The sensitivity is significantly higher than with conventional PCR approaches and the taxonomic classification is more specific. This enables the detection of previously false-negative routine viruses as well as potentially new cardiotropic pathogens from limited bioptic patient material – thus significantly increasing the diagnostic yield of EMB. In addition, our study demonstrates a high prevalence of non-enteroviral cardiotropic viruses in DCMi patients, shedding new light on the etiology of this heterogenous diseases and paving the way for more specific future treatments.
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