Privacy-preserving microbiome analysis using secure computation

Justin Wagner, Joseph N. Paulson, Xiao Wang, Bobby Bhattacharjee, Héctor Corrada Bravo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Motivation: Developing targeted therapeutics and identifying biomarkers relies on large amounts of research participant data. Beyond human DNA, scientists now investigate the DNA of micro-organisms inhabiting the human body. Recent work shows that an individual's collection of microbial DNA consistently identifies that person and could be used to link a real-world identity to a sensitive attribute in a research dataset. Unfortunately, the current suite of DNA-specific privacy-preserving analysis tools does not meet the requirements for microbiome sequencing studies. Results: To address privacy concerns around microbiome sequencing, we implement metagenomic analyses using secure computation. Our implementation allows comparative analysis over combined data without revealing the feature counts for any individual sample. We focus on three analyses and perform an evaluation on datasets currently used by the microbiome research community. We use our implementation to simulate sharing data between four policy-domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1873-1879
Number of pages7
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mathematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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