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Check if BAM is derived from pair-end or single-end reads?
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4.3 years ago
medranom38 • 50
Cambridge, MA, USA

I'm automating a pipeline and currently a user inputs as a parameter if the input BAM is from pair-end or single-end reads. I want to automatically check this. How can do I this?

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Thanks to Pierre's suggestion, I also got to understand this issue.

This link provides additional useful information, especially mentioned about flags. If in.bam is made of totally single end reads, following command probably returns 0. The option '-f 1' can be substituted for '-f 0x1' in hexadecimal.

samtools view -c -f 1 in.bam
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Hello Hakubi and welcome to biostars,

your post is better placed as a comment. To do this please use the ADD COMMENT button below the post you like to reply to. Answers should only be used to respond to the original question at the top of this page and should answer the question as best as possible. Links to pages that contain further information are always welcome as a comment.

So I moved your post to a comment. As you can see this is not perfect, as your reply would be better match as a comment on Pierres answer.

Happy writing.

fin swimmer

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Hello fin swimmer

Thank you for correcting my mistake. I make sense of good manners.


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13 months ago
France/Nantes/Institut du Thorax - INSE…

Use the sam flag and samtools view -c -f 1 in.bam to test if your bam contains paired reads. ( 1= "read paired" See here )

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6 weeks ago
ATpoint 17k

You may also use samtools view -H. It will print you the header of the bam, including the command that was used for the alignment. Usually, paired-end data are separated into two fastq files, one for forward/reverse reads. Hence, if the alignment command shows two fastq files to be used, it was a paired-end alignment.

An example where BWA mem was used:

samtools view -H my.bam

@PG ID:bwa  PN:bwa  VN:0.7.12-r1044 CL:/opt/bwa-0.7.12/bwa mem -M -t 24 /Genomes/hg19/hg19.fasta in_1.fastq in_2.fastq

where the general BWA mem paired-end command is (similar in Bowtie etc.):

./bwa mem -M -t *threads* indexedRefGenome.fasta in_1.fastq in_2.fastq > out.sam
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15 months ago
John 12k

Both methods suggested by Pierre and Alexander will work great for 99.99% of cases, but things get a little messy if you want to detect single-end-reads in a mixed paired & single BAM file, or singletons in a previously paired-end BAM file.

Detecting singles in a mixed file is easy, just look for samtools view -c -F 1 in.bam

Detecting singletons is a bit trickier though... since the filtering step might have just removed the read and left the mate totally unaffected.

Perhaps you could use the read names (although people have a habit of putting junk like /1 and /2 on the end of the read names)

Or maybe one of Pierre's tools can detect orphaned singletons :)

Alexander's method would solve this very quickly and easily if all BAM files coming in are totally under your pipeline's control (you mapped/filtered them yourself at some point). But external "mystery BAMs" may have issues.


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