An intuitive, clinically relevant index of microbial dysbiosis as a summary statistic of subgingival microbiome profiles is needed. Here, we describe a subgingival microbial dysbiosis index (SMDI) based on machine learning analysis of published periodontitis/health 16S microbiome data. The raw sequencing data, split into training and test sets, were quality filtered, taxonomically assigned to the species level, and centered log-ratio transformed. The training data set was subject to random forest analysis to identify discriminating species (DS) between periodontitis and health. DS lists, compiled by various "Gini" importance score cutoffs, were used to compute the SMDI for samples in the training and test data sets as the mean centered log-ratio abundance of periodontitis-associated species subtracted by that of health-associated ones. Diagnostic accuracy was assessed with receiver operating characteristic analysis. An SMDI based on 49 DS provided the highest accuracy with areas under the curve of 0.96 and 0.92 in the training and test data sets, respectively, and ranged from -6 (most normobiotic) to 5 (most dysbiotic) with a value around zero discriminating most of the periodontitis and healthy samples. The top periodontitis-associated DS were Treponema denticola, Mogibacterium timidum, Fretibacterium spp., and Tannerella forsythia, while Actinomyces naeslundii and Streptococcus sanguinis were the top health-associated DS. The index was highly reproducible by hypervariable region. Applying the index to additional test data sets in which nitrate had been used to modulate the microbiome demonstrated that nitrate has dysbiosis-lowering properties in vitro and in vivo. Finally, 3 genera (Treponema, Fretibacterium, and Actinomyces) were identified that could be used for calculation of a simplified SMDI with comparable accuracy. In conclusion, we have developed a nonbiased, reproducible, and easy-to-interpret index that can be used to identify patients/sites at risk of periodontitis, to assess the microbial response to treatment, and, importantly, as a quantitative tool in microbiome modulation studies.
Keywords: Biofilms; Fretibacterium fastidiosum; Treponema denticola; high-throughput nucleotide sequencing; microbiota; periodontitis.