Phrank measures phenotype sets similarity to greatly improve Mendelian diagnostic disease prioritization

Genet Med. 2019 Feb;21(2):464-470. doi: 10.1038/s41436-018-0072-y. Epub 2018 Jul 12.


Purpose: Exome sequencing and diagnosis is beginning to spread across the medical establishment. The most time-consuming part of genome-based diagnosis is the manual step of matching the potentially long list of patient candidate genes to patient phenotypes to identify the causative disease.

Methods: We introduce Phrank (for phenotype ranking), an information theory-inspired method that utilizes a Bayesian network to prioritize candidate diseases or genes, as a stand-alone module that can be run with any underlying knowledgebase and any variant filtering scheme.

Results: Phrank outperforms existing methods at ranking the causative disease or gene when applied to 169 real patient exomes with Mendelian diagnoses. Phrank's greatest improvement is in disease space, where across all 169 patients it ranks only 3 diseases on average ahead of the true diagnosis, whereas Phenomizer ranks 32 diseases ahead of the causal one.

Conclusions: Using Phrank to rank all patient candidate genes or diseases, as they start working through a new case, will save the busy clinician much time in deriving a genetic diagnosis.

Keywords: Bayesian network; Information theory; Medical genetics; Mendelian disease diagnosis; Variant prioritization.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Benchmarking
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted*
  • Exome
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / diagnosis*
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Humans
  • Knowledge Bases
  • Pathology, Molecular / methods
  • Phenotype*
  • Software*