Section 8 Week 7: Microbial genomics and infectious disease

8.1 Microbial genomics and antimicrobial resistance

The objective of this practical is to gain some further hands-on experience of next-generation sequencing data and see how it can be analysed for a real-world application: we are going to focus on predicting antibiotic resistance (phenotype) from genomic sequence (genotype), which of course is of particular relevance in microbial pathogens.prediction of antibiotic susceptibility. Specifically, we will use whole-genome shotgun sequence data, generated using the Illumina sequencing platforms (HiSeq and MiSeq). We will use data from pathogenic bacteria, including some of the same data as in the previous practical session. This has the advantage that the genomes are quite small (a few megabases) and so it is feasible to perform the tasks on a standard PC. Some of what you will learn can also be applied to larger genomes (such as human genomes) but we would need a lot more compute power, disk space and RAM.

8.2 The data

For your convenience, all of the data that you need has been collected together on the University’s One Drive. You can access the data by following a link on the ELE page (

As the reference genome sequence, we will use the completely assembled sequence of strain H37Rv.

You can download it from the Practical 3 and 4 (Mycobacterium reference genome) folder on the One Drive (see above). This is the same reference genome that we used in the previous practical. You will find a .fna file that contains the genomic sequence in FastA format and you will find a .gff file that contains the annotation of the genome, including predicted genes, in General Feature Format (GFF). (If you are using the web-based version of IGV, then use the .fasta and .fasta.fai files instead of the .fna file).

In addition to the reference genome, for today’s practical you also need some FastQ files containing genomic sequence reads of various strains of M. tuberculosis. You also need some .bam and .bai files that contain alignments of these genomic reads aligned against the reference genome. You can find all of these files in the Practical (Week 7) Antibiotic resistance folder. You can download the whole set of files by selecting all and hitting the Download button:

This should result in a .zip file being downloaded into your Downloads folder. You must then extract the files from this .zip file by right-clicking and selecting “Extract All.” This will generate a new folder in which you will find your files.

8.3 Task 1. Obtain background information about the data.

Try to find some background information about these datasets and fill in the table. The filenames indicate the Sequence Read Archive (SRA) accession numbers of these datasets. So, for example, we could look up ERR1679585 at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) website, which would take us to here: On that web page we can see that the data were generated using Illumina MiSeq and there is a link to BioSample accession number SAMEA4501278. Clicking on the SAMEA4501278 link brings us to a page that says the sample name is NG1. On the other hand, there is a link to BioProject accession PRJEB15857 and clicking the link to this BioProject reveals some information about the project. In fact a paper about this project has been published).

FastQ file name Sample name Sequencing platform Brief description of research project
ERR1679585.1.fastq.gz NG1 Illumina MiSeq Whole-genome sequencing illuminates the evolution and spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in Southwest Nigeria

8.4 Task 2 (optional). Check the quality of your data using the FastQC software.

Now, gather some quality-control information about these datasets. Use the FastQC software to find out how many sequence reads.

FastQ file name Number of reads Any comments on the quality of these data

8.5 Task 3. Predict the antibiotic susceptibility profiles of each bacterial isolate using Mykrobe

You have already downloaded the compressed FastQ files for each genome (.fastq.gz files). Now, for each genome, use the Mykrobe software to predict to which antibiotics these bacteria will be susceptible or resistant. Pay attention to the ‘Evidence’ section, because this tells you how the software came to the decision and we will follow up on this later in the practical. The Mykrobe software may already be installed on the PC, but if you encounter any problems, then you can download it from

Simply drag your compressed FastQ file into the Mykrobe window and wait … You should soon see results something like this:

Repeat this process for some or all of the samples and record your results:

FastQ files Sample name M. tb. lineage Resistant Susceptible
ERR1679585.1.fastq.gz NG1 European/American Isoniazid, Rifampicin, Ethambutol Quinolones, Streptomycin, Amikacin, Capreomycin, Kanamycin

Now let’s take a look at the evidence on which the software predictions are based.

For example, note that the software predicts that this bacterial strain is resistant to rifampicin, based on detection of a mutation in the rpoB gene. Numerous studies (Casali et al., 2016; Coll et al., 2017; Grandjean et al., 2017; Naidoo and Pillay, 2017; Senghore et al., 2017) have reported correlations between particular mutations in rpoB (and a few other genes) and resistance to antibiotics in M. tuberculosis. These mutations alter the structure of the encoded protein such that they are no longer effectively targeted by the antibiotic. Several naturally occurring mutations in rpoB are known to confer rifampicin resistance. See for example this figure (from Andre et al. (2017)) listing known mutations in the rpoB gene associated with rifampicin resistance. Let’s see whether we can find the resistance-conferring mutations in our data in the next task …

8.6 Task 4. View the raw data using the Integrated Genome Viewer (IGV) software

We are going to use the IGV software to view the genome sequence reads aligned against a reference genome (as discussed in previous lectures and as you have used previously in practicals). It will look something like the images below:

In preparation for this session, I have aligned each of the sequence datasets against the reference genome sequence. You have already downloaded these as .bam and .bam.bai files.

Please follow these steps to view the data:

  • You need to download both the .bam files and the .bai files to your local PC.

  • Make sure that you have downloaded the reference genome files

  • Launch the IGV software. Spend a little bit of time familiarising yourself with zooming in and out and navigating around the genome if you have not already mastered this.

  • In the IGV software, load the reference genome .fna file, using the Genomes ->Load Genome from File menu.

  • Load the .gff annotation (gene predictions etc.) file for the reference genome, using the File -> Load from File menu.

  • Load the .bam files using the File -> Load from File menu. The corresponding .bai files must be present in the same folder as the .bam files.

  • Remember, if you are using the web-based version of IGV, you need to simultaneously load the .bam.bai files along with the .bam files.

  • Navigate to this position on the genome: 759807 - 763325. You should be able to see rpoB gene. What is the relevance of this gene to antibiotic resistance? What sequence variation do you observe in this gene?

Here is an overview of the data for the rpoB gene in our several samples:

Here, we zoom in on the S40X mutation in rpoB:

What about the mutation in the His residue in the second sample? Will this have any impact on drug resistance? You can find a full list of the mutations that Mykrobe uses in Supplementary Table 15 of the published paper.

Now, in what time you have left, have a look at some other antibiotic-resistance-associated loci and check whether the genomic sequence data are consistent with the Mykrobe results that you generated and tabulated earlier. Summarise your findings in the table below.

Locus Genomic position Any resistance-associated mutations? Relevant resistance prediction (from Mykrobe)
rpoB 759807-763325
katG 2153889-2156111
fabG1 1673440-1674183
gyrA 7302-9818
embB 4246514-4249810
rpsL 781560-781934