The COMBAT-TB Workbench: Making powerful M. tuberculosis bioinformatics accessible


Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) is a powerful method for detecting drug resistance, genetic diversity and transmission dynamics of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Implementation of WGS in public health microbiology laboratories is impeded by a lack of user-friendly, automated and semi-automated pipelines. We present the COMBAT-TB workbench, a modular, easy to install application that provides a web based environment for Mycobacterium tuberculosis bioinformatics. The COMBAT-TB Workbench is built using two main software components: the IRIDA Platform for its web-based user interface and data management capabilities and the Galaxy bioinformatics workflow platform for workflow execution. These components are combined into a single easy to install application using Docker container technology. We implemented two workflows, for M. tuberculosis sample analysis and phylogeny, in Galaxy. Building our workflows involved updating some Galaxy tools (Trimmomatic, snippy and snp-sites) and writing new Galaxy tools (snp-dists, TB-Profiler, tb_variant_filter and TB Variant Report). The irida-wf-ga2xml tool was updated to be able to work with recent versions of Galaxy and was further developed into IRIDA plugins for both workflows. In the case of the M. tuberculosis sample analysis an interface was added to update the metadata stored for each sequence sample with results gleaned from the Galaxy workflow output. Data can be loaded into the COMBAT-TB Workbench via the web interface or via the command line IRIDA uploader tool. The COMBAT-TB Workbench application deploys IRIDA, the COMBAT-TB IRIDA plugins, the MariaDB database and Galaxy using Docker containers (

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

Funding Statement

This work was supported by The South African Research Chairs Initiatives of the Department of Science and Technology and National Research Foundation of South Africa grant UID 64751, and the South African Medical Research Council flagship programme MRC-RFA-UFSP-01-2013/ COMBAT-TB.

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