Background: Caused by intracellular Gram-negative bacteria Brucella spp., brucellosis is the most common bacterial zoonotic disease. Extensive studies in brucellosis have yielded a large number of publications and data covering various topics ranging from basic Brucella genetic study to vaccine clinical trials. To support data interoperability and reasoning, a community-based brucellosis-specific biomedical ontology is needed.
Results: The Brucellosis Ontology (IDOBRU: http://sourceforge.net/projects/idobru), a biomedical ontology in the brucellosis domain, is an extension ontology of the core Infectious Disease Ontology (IDO-core) and follows OBO Foundry principles. Currently IDOBRU contains 1503 ontology terms, which includes 739 Brucella-specific terms, 414 IDO-core terms, and 350 terms imported from 10 existing ontologies. IDOBRU has been used to model different aspects of brucellosis, including host infection, zoonotic disease transmission, symptoms, virulence factors and pathogenesis, diagnosis, intentional release, vaccine prevention, and treatment. Case studies are typically used in our IDOBRU modeling. For example, diurnal temperature variation in Brucella patients, a Brucella-specific PCR method, and a WHO-recommended brucellosis treatment were selected as use cases to model brucellosis symptom, diagnosis, and treatment, respectively. Developed using OWL, IDOBRU supports OWL-based ontological reasoning. For example, by performing a Description Logic (DL) query in the OWL editor Protégé 4 or a SPARQL query in an IDOBRU SPARQL server, a check of Brucella virulence factors showed that eight of them are known protective antigens based on the biological knowledge captured within the ontology.
Conclusions: IDOBRU is the first reported bacterial infectious disease ontology developed to represent different disease aspects in a formal logical format. It serves as a brucellosis knowledgebase and supports brucellosis data integration and automated reasoning.