Analysis of the bacterial and fungal populations in South African sorghum beer (umqombothi) using full-length 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing

Edwin Hlangwani, Adrian Abrahams, Kedibone Masenya, Oluwafemi Ayodeji Adebo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a need to profile microorganisms which exist pre-and-post-production of umqombothi, to understand its microbial diversity and the interactions which subsequently influence the final product. Thus, this study sought to determine the relative microbial abundance in umqombothi and predict the functional pathways of bacterial and fungal microbiota present. Full-length bacterial 16S rRNA and internal transcribed spacer (ITS) gene sequencing using PacBio single-molecule, real-time (SMRT) technology was used to assess the microbial compositions. PICRUSt2 was adopted to infer microbial functional differences. A mixture of harmful and beneficial microorganisms was observed in all samples. The microbial diversity differed significantly between the mixed raw ingredients (MRI), customary beer brew (CB), and optimised beer brew (OPB). The highest bacterial species diversity was observed in the MRI, while the highest fungal species diversity was observed in the OPB. The dominant bacterial species in the MRI, CB, and OPB were Kosakonia cowanii, Apilactobacillus pseudoficulneus, and Vibrio alginolyticus, respectively, while the dominant fungal species was Apiotrichum laibachii. The predicted functional annotations revealed significant (p < 0.05) differences in the microbial pathways of the fermented and unfermented samples. The most abundant pathways in the MRI were the branched-chain amino acid biosynthesis super pathway and the pentose phosphate pathway. The CB sample was characterised by folate (vitamin B9) transformations III, and mixed acid fermentation. Biotin (vitamin B7) biosynthesis I and l-valine biosynthesis characterised the OPB sample. These findings can assist in identifying potential starter cultures for the commercial production of umqombothi. Specifically, A. pseudoficulneus can be used for controlled fermentation during the production of umqombothi. Likewise, the use of A. laibachii can allow for better control over the fermentation kinetics such as carbohydrate conversion and end-product characteristics, especially esters and aroma compounds.

Original languageEnglish
Article number350
JournalWorld Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Lactic acid bacteria
  • Microbial diversity
  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Opaque beer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Physiology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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