Microbial population dynamics during traditional production of Mabisi, a spontaneous fermented milk product from Zambia: a field trial

Anneloes E. Groenenboom, John Shindano, Nachimuka Cheepa, Eddy J. Smid, Sijmen E. Schoustra*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Mabisi is a fermented milk product, traditionally produced in a calabash by uncontrolled fermentation. Due to high costs and a reduced availability of calabashes, nowadays plastic containers are also used for Mabisi production. However, the effect of this change in production practice on the properties of the product has not been documented. Therefore, we aimed at determining the effect of fermentation vessels and types of back-slopping on acidification and microbial communities during fermentation. A series of fifteen experiments using two types of fermentation vessels (plastic buckets and calabashes) in combination with different types of back-slopping (no back-slopping, passive back-slopping, and active back-slopping) were set up at a field site in rural Zambia. In each of the fifteen fermentations we analysed acidification rate of traditional Mabisi fermentation and bacterial diversity over time. No significant difference was found in terms of microbial diversity during and at the end of fermentation between fermentations performed in buckets or previously used calabashes. Bacterial communities in general decreased in diversity over time, where the drop in pH correlated with a decrease in Shannon Index. In case of active back-slopping, the pH drop started right after inoculation while in the no back-slopping and passive back-slopping fermentations, there was a clear lag phase before acidification started. All experimental series resulted in a microbial community dominated by Lactococcus lactis and a Shannon Index, as a measure for diversity, between 0.6 and 2.0. The use of plastic buckets for Mabisi fermentation can be a valuable alternative to the use of calabashes as this study showed no biological and physico-chemical differences between Mabisi resulting from both fermentation vessels, although the reason for perceived differences should be further investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Article number184
JournalWorld Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2020


  • Bacterial community
  • Dairy
  • Fermentation vessel
  • Field study
  • Traditional fermentation

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