RethinkDB database to support real-time virus analysis


Nextstrain is an open-source project to harness the scientific and public health potential of pathogen genome data. We provide a continually-updated view of publicly available data with powerful analytics and visualizations showing pathogen evolution and epidemic spread. Our goal is to aid epidemiological understanding and improve outbreak response.

Nextstrain is comprised of three primary components:

  • fauna: database and IO scripts for sequence and serological data
  • augur: informatic pipelines to conduct inferences from raw data
  • auspice: web app to visualize resulting inferences

Resulting data and inferences are available live at the website


Definition: The animals of a given region or period considered as a whole. Also, prophetic Roman deity.

The fauna database stores viral sequences and serological data in RethinkDB. The current database and scripts are designed around influenza, Ebola and Zika viruses, but with the intention of provided a general purpose tool.

Note: In most cases, it will be easier to pass augur a self-prepared FASTA file than to use fauna with the overhead of launching a RethinkDB instance. If you are new to Nextstrain, we suggest you skip fauna and proceed to directly to augur.


The virus database (vdb) is used to store viral information in an organized schema. This allows easy storage and querying of viruses which can be downloaded in formatted fasta or json files.


The titer database (tdb) is used to store titer measurements in an organized schema. This allows easy storage and downloading of all measurements in the database.

Supported virus builds

We maintain notes on supported virus builds.


Clone the repo and load submodules:

git clone
git submodule update --init --recursive

Install Python modules needed to run upload/download scripts:

pip install -r requirements.txt

Install Chateau Web UI:

npm install

Backup and restore functionality requires the rethinkdb command line utility. This can be installed by following instructions here. With Homebrew, you can just do:

brew install rethinkdb

Environment variables

Throughout we assume the existence of environment variables RETHINK_HOST and RETHINK_AUTH_KEY. We do not share these variables here, because for security reasons our RethinkDB instance is private. To use fauna you will need to set up your own RethinkDB instance as described here. This instance can be local, in which case variables will be:

  • RETHINK_HOST: localhost

Or this instance can be remote, in which case follow the RethinkDB docs to configure. Note that admin password is synonymous with RethinkDB auth_key.


Chateau (forked to nextstrain/chateau/) allows easy web access to the database. To run, do the following:

  1. Set environment variables RETHINK_HOST and RETHINK_AUTH_KEY. If running locally set RETHINK_HOST to localhost and leave RETHINK_AUTH_KEY empty.
  2. Run with npm run chateau from directory fauna/.
  3. Go to http://localhost:3000/.

Chateau configurations are stored in config.js.

License and copyright

Copyright 2016-2017 Trevor Bedford.

Source code to Nextstrain is made available under the terms of the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL). Nextstrain is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU Affero General Public License for more details.