MetaLonDA: a flexible R package for identifying time intervals of differentially abundant features in metagenomic longitudinal studies

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Authors Ahmed A Metwally, Jie Yang, Christian Ascoli, Yang Dai, Patricia W. Finn, David L. Perkins
Journal/Conference Name Microbiome
Paper Category
Paper Abstract BackgroundMicrobial longitudinal studies are powerful experimental designs utilized to classify diseases, determine prognosis, and analyze microbial systems dynamics. In longitudinal studies, only identifying differential features between two phenotypes does not provide sufficient information to determine whether a change in the relative abundance is short-term or continuous. Furthermore, sample collection in longitudinal studies suffers from all forms of variability such as a different number of subjects per phenotypic group, a different number of samples per subject, and samples not collected at consistent time points. These inconsistencies are common in studies that collect samples from human subjects.ResultsWe present MetaLonDA, an R package that is capable of identifying significant time intervals of differentially abundant microbial features. MetaLonDA is flexible such that it can perform differential abundance tests despite inconsistencies associated with sample collection. Extensive experiments on simulated datasets quantitatively demonstrate the effectiveness of MetaLonDA with significant improvement over alternative methods. We applied MetaLonDA to the DIABIMMUNE cohort ( substantiating significant early lifetime intervals of exposure to Bacteroides and Bifidobacterium in Finnish and Russian infants. Additionally, we established significant time intervals during which novel differentially relative abundant microbial genera may contribute to aberrant immunogenicity and development of autoimmune disease.ConclusionMetaLonDA is computationally efficient and can be run on desktop machines. The identified differentially abundant features and their time intervals have the potential to distinguish microbial biomarkers that may be used for microbial reconstitution through bacteriotherapy, probiotics, or antibiotics. Moreover, MetaLonDA can be applied to any longitudinal count data such as metagenomic sequencing, 16S rRNA gene sequencing, or RNAseq. MetaLonDA is publicly available on CRAN (
Date of publication 2018
Code Programming Language R

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