Comparison of PCR versus PCR-Free DNA library preparation for characterising the human faecal virome

Shen-Yuan Hsieh, Mohammad A. Tariq, Andrea Telatin, Rebecca Ansorge, Evelien M. Adriaenssens, George M. Savva, Catherine Booth, Tom Wileman, Lesley Hoyles, Simon R. Carding

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The human intestinal microbiota is abundant in viruses, comprising mainly bacteriophages, occasionally outnumbering bacteria 10:1 and is termed the virome. Due to their high genetic diversity and the lack of suitable tools and reference databases, the virome remains poorly characterised and is often referred to as “viral dark matter”. However, the choice of sequencing platforms, read lengths and library preparation make study design challenging with respect to the virome. Here we have compared the use of PCR and PCR-free methods for sequence-library construction on the Illumina sequencing platform for characterising the human faecal virome. Viral DNA was extracted from faecal samples of three healthy donors and sequenced. Our analysis shows that most variation was reflecting the individually specific faecal virome. However, we observed differences between PCR and PCR-free library preparation that affected the recovery of low-abundance viral genomes. Using three faecal samples in this study, the PCR library preparation samples led to a loss of lowerabundance vOTUs evident in their PCR-free pairs (vOTUs 128, 6202 and 8364) and decreased the alpha-diversity indices (Chao1 p-value = 0.045 and Simpson p-value = 0.044). Thus, differences between PCR and PCR-free methods are important to consider when investigating “rare” members of the gut virome, with these biases likely negligible when investigating moderately and highly abundant viruses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2093
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2021


  • Bacteriophage
  • PCR bias
  • Virome

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