Rapidly evolving RNA viruses prevail within a host as a collection of closely related variants, referred to as viral quasispecies. Advances in high-throughput sequencing (HTS) technologies have facilitated the assessment of the genetic diversity of such virus populations at an unprecedented level of detail. However, analysis of HTS data from virus populations is challenging due to short, error-prone reads. In order to account for uncertainties originating from these limitations, several computational and statistical methods have been developed for studying the genetic heterogeneity of virus population. Here, we review methods for the analysis of HTS reads, including approaches to local diversity estimation and global haplotype reconstruction. Challenges posed by aligning reads, as well as the impact of reference biases on diversity estimates are also discussed. In addition, we address some of the experimental approaches designed to improve the biological signal-to-noise ratio. In the future, computational methods for the analysis of heterogeneous virus populations are likely to continue being complemented by technological developments. Copyright © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Journal: Virus research