Bakdrive: Identifying the Minimum Set of Bacterial Driver Species across Multiple Microbial Communities


Interactions among microbes within microbial communities have been shown to play crucial roles in human health. In spite of recent progress, low-level knowledge of bacteria driving microbial interactions within microbiomes remains unknown, limiting our ability to fully understand and control microbial communities. In this study, we present a novel approach for identifying driver species within microbiomes. Bakdrive infers ecological networks of given metagenomic sequencing samples and identifies minimum sets of driver species using control theory. Bakdrive has three key innovations in this space: (i) it leverages inherent information from metagenomic sequencing samples to identify driver species, (ii) it explicitly takes host-specific variation into consideration, and (iii) it does not require a known ecological network. In extensive simulated data, we demonstrate identifying driver species identified from healthy donor samples and introducing them to the disease samples, we can restore the gut microbiome in recurrent Clostridioides difficile infection patients to a healthy state. We also applied Bakdrive to two real datasets, rCDI and Crohn’s disease patients, uncovering driver species consistent with previous work. In summary, Bakdrive provides a novel approach for teasing apart microbial interactions. Bakdrive is open-source and available at

Qi Wang
Qi Wang
PhD student

Dr. Wang finished her PhD in the Treangen Lab December 2021. Previously, Dr. Wang obtained B.S. degrees in Biotechnology from Hong Kong Baptist University and MS in Biotechnology from Northwestern University. During her undergraduate, she did research in University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing University of Chemical Technology and Capital Medical University, focusing on using bioinformatics and experimental approaches to solve various life science problems, including synthetic biology, developmental biology, oncology and drug discovery. Her interest is to improve human health and environment by understanding complex biology data.

Dr. Mike Nute
Dr. Mike Nute
Postdoctoral Scientist

Mike (Postdoctoral Scientist) received his Ph.D. in Statistics in 2019 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he was advised by Dr. Tandy Warnow in the Department of Computer Science and worked on algorithms related to multiple sequence alignment and phylogenetic tree estimation, in particular applying these methods to studying microbial communities. He was co-advised by Dr. Rebecca Stumpf in the Department of Anthropology where he and other lab members developed novel methods to compare the microbiomes of human and non-human primates. His research interest is in discovering a new applications for our understanding of microbial communities.