MetaAnalyst: a user-friendly tool for metagenomic biomarker detection and phenotype classification.
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BACKGROUND: Many metagenomic studies have linked the imbalance in microbial abundance profiles to a wide range of diseases. These studies suggest utilizing the microbial abundance profiles as potential markers for metagenomic-associated conditions. Due to the inevitable importance of biomarkers in understanding the disease progression and the development of possible therapies, various computational tools have been proposed for metagenomic biomarker detection. However, most existing tools require prior scripting knowledge and lack user friendly interfaces, causing considerable time and effort to install, configure, and run these tools. Besides, there is no available all-in-one solution for running and comparing various metagenomic biomarker detection simultaneously. In addition, most of these tools just present the suggested biomarkers without any statistical evaluation for their quality. RESULTS: To overcome these limitations, this work presents MetaAnalyst, a software package with a simple graphical user interface (GUI) that (i) automates the installation and configuration of 28 state-of-the-art tools, (ii) supports flexible study design to enable studying the dataset under different scenarios smoothly, iii) runs and evaluates several algorithms simultaneously iv) supports different input formats and provides the user with several preprocessing capabilities, v) provides a variety of metrics to evaluate the quality of the suggested markers, and vi) presents the outcomes in the form of publication quality plots with various formatting capabilities as well as Excel sheets. CONCLUSIONS: The utility of this tool has been verified through studying a metagenomic dataset under four scenarios. The executable file for MetaAnalyst along with its user manual are made available at https://github.com/mshawaqfeh/MetaAnalyst .