BMC Bioinformatics 21 (1) 273 [2020-07-01; online 2020-07-01]
Exome and genome sequencing is becoming the method of choice for rare disease diagnostics. One of the key challenges remaining is distinguishing the disease causing variants from the benign background variation. After analysis and annotation of the sequencing data there are typically thousands of candidate variants requiring further investigation. One of the most effective and least biased ways to reduce this number is to assess the rarity of a variant in any population. Currently, there are a number of reliable sources of information for major population frequencies when considering single nucleotide variants (SNVs) and small insertion and deletions (INDELs), with gnomAD as the most prominent public resource available. However, local variation or frequencies in sub-populations may be underrepresented in these public resources. In contrast, for structural variation (SV), the background frequency in the general population is more or less unknown mostly due to challenges in calling SVs in a consistent way. Keeping track of local variation is one way to overcome these problems and significantly reduce the number of potential disease causing variants retained for manual inspection, both for SNVs and SVs. Here, we present loqusdb, a tool to solve the challenge of keeping track of any type of variant observations from genome sequencing data. Loqusdb was designed to handle a large flow of samples and unlike other solutions, samples can be added continuously to the database without rebuilding it, facilitating improvements and additions. We assessed the added value of a local observations database using 98 samples annotated with information from a background of 888 unrelated individuals. We show both how powerful SV analysis can be when filtering for population frequencies and how the number of apparently rare SNVs/INDELs can be reduced by adding local population information even after annotating the data with other large frequency databases, such as gnomAD. In conclusion, we show that a local frequency database is an attractive, and a necessary addition to the publicly available databases that facilitate the analysis of exome and genome data in a clinical setting.