Technical challenges remain in the sequencing of RNA viruses due to their high intra-host diversity. This bottleneck is particularly pronounced when interrogating long-range co-evolved genetic interactions given the read-length limitations of next-generation sequencing platforms. This has hampered the direct observation of these genetic interactions that code for protein-protein interfaces with relevance in both drug and vaccine development. Here we overcome these technical limitations by developing a nanopore-based long-range viral sequencing pipeline that yields accurate single molecule sequences of circulating virions from clinical samples. We demonstrate its utility in observing the evolution of individual HIV Gag-Pol genomes in response to antiviral pressure. Our pipeline, called Multi-read Hairpin Mediated Error-correction Reaction (MrHAMER), yields >1000s of viral genomes per sample at 99.9% accuracy, maintains the original proportion of sequenced virions present in a complex mixture, and allows the detection of rare viral genomes with their associated mutations present at <1% frequency. This method facilitates scalable investigation of genetic correlates of resistance to both antiviral therapy and immune pressure and enables the identification of novel host-viral and viral-viral interfaces that can be modulated for therapeutic benefit.
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.