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VarDict is an ultra sensitive variant caller for both single and paired sample variant calling from BAM files. VarDict implements several novel features such as amplicon bias aware variant calling from targeted sequencing experiments, rescue of long indels by realigning bwa soft clipped reads and better scalability than many Java based variant callers.

Due to the philosophy of VarDict in calling "everything", several downstream strategies have been developed to filter variants to for example the most likely cancer driving events. These strategies are based on evidence in different databases and/or quality metrics. provides an overview of how to develop further filters for VarDict. The script at can be used to put the variants into a context by including information from dbSNP, Cosmic and ClinVar. We are open to suggestions from the community on how to best narrow down to the variants of most interest.

A Java based drop-in replacement for is being developed at The Java implementation is approximately 10 times faster than the original Perl implementation and does not depend on samtools

To enable amplicon aware variant calling (single sample mode only; not supported in paired variant calling), please make sure the bed file has 8 columns with the 7th and 8th columns containing the insert interval (therefore subset of the 2nd and 3rd column interval). The bed files typically look similar to the below two overlapping intervals:

chr1    115247094       115247253       NRAS    0       .       115247117       115247232

chr1    115247202       115247341       NRAS    0       .       115247224       115247323

For more information on amplicon aware calling please see

VarDict is fully integrated in e.g. bcbio-nextgen, see

Please cite VarDict:

Lai Z, Markovets A, Ahdesmaki M, Chapman B, Hofmann O, McEwen R, Johnson J, Dougherty B, Barrett JC, and Dry JR. VarDict: a novel and versatile variant caller for next-generation sequencing in cancer research. Nucleic Acids Res. 2016, pii: gkw227.

The link to is article can be accessed through:

Coded by Zhongwu Lai 2014.


  • Perl (uses /usr/bin/env perl)
  • R (uses /usr/bin/env R)
  • samtools (must be in path, not required if using the Java implementation in place of

Quick start

Make sure the VarDict folder (scripts
) is in path before running the following commands.
  • Running in single sample mode::

     AF_THR="0.01" # minimum allele frequency
     vardict -G /path/to/hg19.fa -f $AF_THR -N sample_name -b /path/to/my.bam -c 1 -S 2 -E 3 -g 4 /path/to/my.bed | teststrandbias.R | -N sample_name -E -f $AF_THR
  • Paired variant calling::

     AF_THR="0.01" # minimum allele frequency
     vardict -G /path/to/hg19.fa -f $AF_THR -N tumor_sample_name -b "/path/to/tumor.bam|/path/to/normal.bam" -c 1 -S 2 -E 3 -g 4 /path/to/my.bed | testsomatic.R | -N "tumor_sample_name|normal_sample_name" -f $AF_THR


  • Zhongwu Lai
    _, AstraZeneca .. _Zhongwu Lai:
  • Miika Ahdesmaki
    _, AstraZeneca .. _Miika Ahdesmaki:
  • Brad Chapman
    _, Harvard School of Public Health .. _Brad Chapman:


The code is freely available under the

MIT license

.. _MIT license:

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