Whole-genome sequencing expands diagnostic utility and improves clinical management in paediatric medicine
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The standard of care for first-tier clinical investigation of the etiology of congenital malformations and neurodevelopmental disorders is chromosome microarray analysis (CMA) for copy number variations (CNVs), often followed by gene(s)-specific sequencing searching for smaller insertion-deletions (indels) and single nucleotide variant (SNV) mutations. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) has the potential to capture all classes of genetic variation in one experiment; however, the diagnostic yield for mutation detection of WGS compared to CMA, and other tests, needs to be established. In a prospective study we utilized WGS and comprehensive medical annotation to assess 100 patients referred to a paediatric genetics service and compared the diagnostic yield versus standard genetic testing. WGS identified genetic variants meeting clinical diagnostic criteria in 34% of cases, representing a 4-fold increase in diagnostic rate over CMA (8%) (p-value = 1.42e-05) alone and >2-fold increase in CMA plus targeted gene sequencing (13%) (p-value = 0.0009). WGS identified all rare clinically significant CNVs that were detected by CMA. In 26 patients, WGS revealed indel and missense mutations presenting in a dominant (63%) or a recessive (37%) manner. We found four subjects with mutations in at least two genes associated with distinct genetic disorders, including two cases harboring a pathogenic CNV and SNV. When considering medically actionable secondary findings in addition to primary WGS findings, 38% of patients would benefit from genetic counseling. Clinical implementation of WGS as a primary test will provide a higher diagnostic yield than conventional genetic testing and potentially reduce the time required to reach a genetic diagnosis.