Filtering VCF files

The filter script:

Filtering a VCF file based on some properties of interest is a common enough operation that PyVCF offers an extensible script. does the work of reading input, updating the metadata and filtering the records.

Adding a filter

You can reuse this work by providing a filter class, rather than writing your own filter. For example, lets say I want to filter each site based on the quality of the site. I can create a class like this:

import vcf.filters
class SiteQuality(vcf.filters.Base):

    description = 'Filter sites by quality'
    name = 'sq'

    def customize_parser(self, parser):
        parser.add_argument('--site-quality', type=int, default=30,
                help='Filter sites below this quality')

    def __init__(self, args):
        self.threshold = args.site_quality

    def __call__(self, record):
        if record.QUAL < self.threshold:
            return record.QUAL

This class subclasses vcf.filters.Base which provides the interface for VCF filters. The description` and name are metadata about the parser. The customize_parser method allows you to add arguments to the script. We use the __init__ method to grab the argument of interest from the parser. Finally, the __call__ method processes each record and returns a value if the filter failed. The base class uses the name and threshold to create the filter ID in the VCF file.

To make aware of the filter, you can either use the local script option or declare an entry point. To use a local script, simply call vcf_filter:

$ --local-script ...

To use an entry point, you need to declare a vcf.filters entry point in your setup:

    entry_points = {
        'vcf.filters': [
            'site_quality = module.path:SiteQuality',

Either way, when you call, you should see your filter in the list of available filters:

usage: [-h] [--no-short-circuit] [--no-filtered]
              [--output OUTPUT] [--local-script LOCAL_SCRIPT]
              input filter [filter_args] [filter [filter_args]] ...

Filter a VCF file

positional arguments:
  input                 File to process (use - for STDIN) (default: None)

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            Show this help message and exit. (default: False)
  --no-short-circuit    Do not stop filter processing on a site if any filter
                        is triggered (default: False)
  --output OUTPUT       Filename to output [STDOUT] (default: <open file
                        '<stdout>', mode 'w' at 0x1002841e0>)
  --no-filtered         Output only sites passing the filters (default: False)
  --local-script LOCAL_SCRIPT
                        Python file in current working directory with the
                        filter classes (default: None)

  Filter sites by quality

  --site-quality SITE_QUALITY
                        Filter sites below this quality (default: 30)

The filter base class: vcf.filters.Base

class vcf.filters.Base(args)[source]

Base class for filters

classmethod customize_parser(parser)[source]

hook to extend argparse parser with custom arguments

description = 'VCF filter base class'

descrtiption used in vcf headers


return the name to put in the VCF header, default is name + threshold

name = 'f'

name used to activate filter and in VCF headers


Utilities for VCF files.

Simultaneously iterate two or more files


Simultaneously iteratate two or more VCF readers and return lists of concurrent records from each reader, with None if no record present. Caller must check the inputs are sorted in the same way and use the same reference otherwise behaviour is undefined.

Project Versions

Table Of Contents

Previous topic


Next topic


This Page