CoViT: Real-time phylogenetics for the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic using Vision Transformers

Zuher Jahshan, Can Alkan, Leonid Yavits

Research output: Working paper / PreprintPreprint

35 Downloads (Pure)


Real-time viral genome detection, taxonomic classification and phylogenetic analysis are critical for efficient tracking and control of viral pandemics such as Covid-19. However, the unprecedented and still growing amounts of viral genome data create a computational bottleneck, which effectively prevents the real-time pandemic tracking. For genomic tracing to work effectively, each new viral genome sequence must be placed in its pangenomic context. Re-inferring the full phylogeny of SARS-CoV-2, with datasets containing millions of samples, is prohibitively slow even using powerful computational resources. We are attempting to alleviate the computational bottleneck by modifying and applying Vision Transformer, a recently developed neural network model for image recognition, to taxonomic classification and placement of viral genomes, such as SARS-CoV-2. Our solution, CoViT, places SARS-CoV-2 genome accessions onto SARS-CoV-2 phylogenetic tree with the accuracy of 94.2%. Since CoViT is a classification neural network, it provides more than one likely placement. Specifically, one of the two most likely placements suggested by CoViT is correct with the probability of 97.9%. The probability of the correct placement to be found among the five most likely placements generated by CoViT is 99.8%. The placement time is 0.055s per individual genome running on NVIDIAs GeForce RTX 2080 Ti GPU. We make CoViT available to research community through GitHub:
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
StatePublished - 9 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

11 pages, 4 figures, 2 tables


  • cs.LG
  • q-bio.QM

Cite this