MetaGeniE: Characterizing human clinical samples using deep metagenomic sequencing

Arun Rawat, David M. Engelthaler, Elizabeth M. Driebe, Paul Keim, Jeffrey T. Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


With the decreasing cost of next-generation sequencing, deep sequencing of clinical samples provides unique opportunities to understand host-associated microbial communities. Among the primary challenges of clinical metagenomic sequencing is the rapid filtering of human reads to survey for pathogens with high specificity and sensitivity. Metagenomes are inherently variable due to different microbes in the samples and their relative abundance, the size and architecture of genomes, and factors such as target DNA amounts in tissue samples (i.e. human DNA versus pathogen DNA concentration). This variation in metagenomes typically manifests in sequencing datasets as low pathogen abundance, a high number of host reads, and the presence of close relatives and complex microbial communities. In addition to these challenges posed by the composition of metagenomes, high numbers of reads generated from highthroughput deep sequencing pose immense computational challenges. Accurate identification of pathogens is confounded by individual reads mapping to multiple different reference genomes due to gene similarity in different taxa present in the community or close relatives in the reference database. Available global and local sequence aligners also vary in sensitivity, specificity, and speed of detection. The efficiency of detection of pathogens in clinical samples is largely dependent on the desired taxonomic resolution of the organisms. We have developed an efficient strategy that identifies "all against all" relationships between sequencing reads and reference genomes. Our approach allows for scaling to large reference databases and then genome reconstruction by aggregating global and local alignments, thus allowing genetic characterization of pathogens at higher taxonomic resolution. These results were consistent with strain level SNP genotyping and bacterial identification from laboratory culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere110915
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 3 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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