BioMiCo : a supervised Bayesian model for inference of microbial community structure

M. Shafiei, K.A. Dunn, E. Boon, S.M. MacDonald, D.A. Walsh, H. Gu, J.P. Bielawski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleProfessional

31 Citations (Scopus)
116 Downloads (Pure)


Here, we describe a novel hierarchical model for Bayesian inference of microbial communities (BioMiCo). The model takes abundance data derived from environmental DNA, and models the composition of each sample by a two-level hierarchy of mixture distributions constrained by Dirichlet priors. BioMiCo is supervised, using known features for samples and appropriate prior constraints to overcome the challenges posed by many variables, sparse data, and large numbers of rare species. The model is trained on a portion of the data, where it learns how assemblages of species are mixed to form communities and how assemblages are related to the known features of each sample. Training yields a model that can predict the features of new samples. We used BioMiCo to build models for three serially sampled datasets and tested their predictive accuracy across different time points. The first model was trained to predict both body site (hand, mouth, and gut) and individual human host. It was able to reliably distinguish these features across different time points. The second was trained on vaginal microbiomes to predict both the Nugent score and individual human host. We found that women having normal and elevated Nugent scores had distinct microbiome structures that persisted over time, with additional structure within women having elevated scores. The third was trained for the purpose of assessing seasonal transitions in a coastal bacterial community. Application of this model to a high-resolution time series permitted us to track the rate and time of community succession and accurately predict known ecosystem-level events.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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