Evaluation of parameters affecting performance and reliability of machine learning-based antibiotic susceptibility testing from whole genome sequencing data

PLoS Comput Biol. 2019 Sep 3;15(9):e1007349. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007349. eCollection 2019 Sep.


Prediction of antibiotic resistance phenotypes from whole genome sequencing data by machine learning methods has been proposed as a promising platform for the development of sequence-based diagnostics. However, there has been no systematic evaluation of factors that may influence performance of such models, how they might apply to and vary across clinical populations, and what the implications might be in the clinical setting. Here, we performed a meta-analysis of seven large Neisseria gonorrhoeae datasets, as well as Klebsiella pneumoniae and Acinetobacter baumannii datasets, with whole genome sequence data and antibiotic susceptibility phenotypes using set covering machine classification, random forest classification, and random forest regression models to predict resistance phenotypes from genotype. We demonstrate how model performance varies by drug, dataset, resistance metric, and species, reflecting the complexities of generating clinically relevant conclusions from machine learning-derived models. Our findings underscore the importance of incorporating relevant biological and epidemiological knowledge into model design and assessment and suggest that doing so can inform tailored modeling for individual drugs, pathogens, and clinical populations. We further suggest that continued comprehensive sampling and incorporation of up-to-date whole genome sequence data, resistance phenotypes, and treatment outcome data into model training will be crucial to the clinical utility and sustainability of machine learning-based molecular diagnostics.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Computational Biology
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Genome, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning*
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Whole Genome Sequencing*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents