StrainIQ: A Novel n-Gram-Based Method for Taxonomic Profiling of Human Microbiota at the Strain LevelSanjit Pandey, Nagavardhini Avuthu, Chittibabu Guda
- Genetics (clinical)
The emergence of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology has greatly influenced microbiome research and led to the development of novel bioinformatics tools to deeply analyze metagenomics datasets. Identifying strain-level variations in microbial communities is important to understanding the onset and progression of diseases, host–pathogen interrelationships, and drug resistance, in addition to designing new therapeutic regimens. In this study, we developed a novel tool called StrainIQ (strain identification and quantification) based on a new n-gram-based (series of n number of adjacent nucleotides in the DNA sequence) algorithm for predicting and quantifying strain-level taxa from whole-genome metagenomic sequencing data. We thoroughly evaluated our method using simulated and mock metagenomic datasets and compared its performance with existing methods. On average, it showed 85.8% sensitivity and 78.2% specificity on simulated datasets. It also showed higher specificity and sensitivity using n-gram models built from reduced reference genomes and on models with lower coverage sequencing data. It outperforms alternative approaches in genus- and strain-level prediction and strain abundance estimation. Overall, the results show that StrainIQ achieves high accuracy by implementing customized model-building and is an efficient tool for site-specific microbial community profiling.