The possibility that RNA transcripts from clinical samples contain plenty of virus RNAs has not been pursued actively so far. Osaka University researchers have developed a new tool for analyzing virus-transcribed mRNAs, not virus copy numbers, in the data of bulk and single-cell RNA-sequencing of human cells. Their pipeline, named VIRTUS (VIRal Transcript Usage Sensor), was able to detect 762 viruses including herpesviruses, retroviruses, and even SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), and quantify their transcripts in the sequence data. This tool thus enabled simultaneously detecting infected cells, the composition of multiple viruses within the cell, and the endogenous host gene expression profile of the cell. This bioinformatics method would be instrumental in addressing the possible effects of covertly infecting viruses on certain diseases and developing new treatments to target such viruses.
Availability – VIRTUS is implemented using Common Workflow Language and Docker under a CC-NC license. VIRTUS is freely available at https://github.com/yyoshiaki/VIRTUS.