University of Natal Alumnus Hosts Seminar at SAEES

Microbial terroirs in animals – the link between Microbiology and Animal Science


 From left: Dr Nasreldin Basha, Prof Micheal Chimonyo, Prof Ignatius Nsahlai and Dr Alexandra Smith


The discipline of Animal and Poultry Science recently hosted Dr. Alexandra H. Smith (PhD) from AgroBioSciences Inc., a research company based in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, United States of America. Dr. Smith graduated with a MSc cum laude (Microbiology) at the former University of Natal in 1995, and went on to obtain a PhD (Intestinal Microbiology) in the USA. Her passion lies in exploring the use of microbes to enhance production of livestock.

Dr. Smith held a seminar on Thursday 25 February 2016. Her theme was: “Microbial Ecology and its important role in promoting gut health in animals”. Major highlights of her presenation included fascinating results of how live (viable) microbial species such as Lactobacillus plantarum enhance immune development and function, play a role in microbial homeostasis and nutrient processing in the guts of broiler chickens. In an era where use of antibiotics in meat production is being discouraged, use of naturally occurring gut microbiota may have a viable application in the livestock production industry, especially in South Africa.

In an effort to be part of the good cause of maintaining a “green environment”, researchers at AgroBioSciences Inc. have developed products made of live microbes (probiotics) that contain Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus licheniformis and enzymes for the decomposition of stored dairy waste to enhance crust, solids and unpleasant odour reduction.

Her presentation opened new avenues for research to prospective postgraduate sudents in animal science. The seminar was attended by Prof M Chimonyo, Prof I Nsahlai, Mrs A Botha (Ukulinga Farm), postdoc, postgraduate students and final year Animal & Poultry Science students. After the presentation, we toured Ukulinga farm to explore possibilities of establishing collaboration between UKZN and AgroBiosciences. Their main focus is to test their products under the South African dietary and climate conditions. Dr Smith also enjoyed mingling with final year students and sharing with them their seminar topics and their ideas on furture research. On our way to Ukulinga, we were confronted by protesting students. After passing through them, she remarked “The students are still active and interested in more than just their own potential, but are concerned about the greater social context.”

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