Title Caution in inferring viral strategies from abundance correlations in marine metagenomes
Publication Type Journal Article
Year of Publication 2019
Authors Alrasheed H, Jin R, Weitz JS
Journal Nature Communications

Coutinho et al.1 reported metagenomics-derived evidence in support of the ‘Piggyback-the-Winner’ (PtW) hypothesis that lysogeny prevalence increases at high microbial abundances. Coutinho et al.1 did not directly estimate lysogenic prevalence, but instead, found that the ratio of virus-to-microbial host abundances decreased as microbial cell abundances increased. This pattern represents potential (albeit indirect) evidence in support of PtW. Here, we show that the bulk of these reported abundance relationships are likely spurious. Instead, we find absence of evidence for positive, sublinear correlations between virus and microbial abundances as estimated in dozens of putative virus-microbe pairs identified by Coutinho et al.1 The absence of correlations between virus and microbial abundances is a counter-indicator for PtW. Altogether, our re-analysis suggests the need for caution in using correlation-based inference to identify viral strategies from metagenomics-derived abundance relationships.

URL https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-07950-z
DOI 10.1038/s41467-018-07950-z