The promises and pitfalls of machine learning for detecting viruses in aquatic metagenomes

Alise J. Ponsero, Bonnie L. Hurwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Tools allowing for the identification of viral sequences in host-associated and environmental metagenomes allows for a better understanding of the genetics and ecology of viruses and their hosts. Recently, new approaches using machine learning methods to distinguish viral from bacterial signal using k-mer sequence signatures were published for identifying viral contigs in metagenomes. The promise of these content-based approaches is the ability to discover new viruses, with no or few known relatives. In this perspective paper, we examine the use of the content-based machine learning tool VirFinder for the identification of viral sequences in aquatic metagenomes and explore the possibility of using ecosystem-focused models targeted to marine metagenomes. We discuss the impact of the training set composition on the tool performance and the current limitation for the retrieval of low abundance viral sequences in metagenomes. We identify potential biases that could arise from machine learning approaches for viral hunting in real-world datasets and suggest possible avenues to overcome them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number806
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Volume10
Issue numberMAR
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Machine learning
  • Metagenomic
  • Sequence classification
  • Viral signature
  • Virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)

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