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Assessment of microbial quality and health risks associated with traditional rice wine starter Xaj-pitha of Assam, India: a step towards defined and controlled fermentation


This study reports the microbial quality of ethnic starter culture Xaj-pitha used for rice wine fermentation in Assam. Here, we collected 60 Xaj-pitha samples belonging to Ahom community of the state and enumerated the microorganisms using spread plate technique. Illumina-based whole genome shotgun sequencing detected the presence of microbial contaminants like Acidovorax, Herbaspirillum, Methylobacterium, Pantoea, Pseudomonas, Stenotrophomonas, Staphylococcus, Micrococcus, Acinetobacter, etc. Presence of major health hazards associated with spontaneous rice wine fermentation necessitated method optimization through the development of a defined mixed starter culture. For this, functionally important α-amylase producers viz., Penicillium sp. ABTSJ23, Rhizopus oryzae ABTSJ63, Mucor guilliermondii ABTSJ72 and Amylomyces rouxii ABTSJ82 and eight yeasts viz., Saccharomyces cerevisiae ABTY1J, ABTY1S, ADJ5 & ADJ1, Wickerhamomyces anomalus ADJ2, Saccharomycopsis malanga ADJ3, Saccharomycopsis fibuligera ADJ4 and Saccharomycopsis malanga ADJ6 were retrieved using appropriate media. All the mould cultures tested negative for aflotoxins production. Among the yeasts, Saccharomyces cerevisiae ABTY1S and ADJ1 decarboxylated lysine HCl and tyramine HCl, respectively, indicating their biogenic amine production ability. For defined mixed starter culture, Amylomyces rouxii ABT82 with α-amylase (5.92 U/ml) and glucoamylase (7.50 U/ml) activities was selected as fungal partner; while Saccharomycopsis fibuligera ADJ4 and Saccharomyces cerevisiae ABT-Y1J with high ethanol production (up to 10.11% and 9.88% v/v, respectively) were selected as yeast partners. The mixed culture was able to produce high amount of glucose, ethanol and liquid (glucose 10.91% w/v; ethanol 7.5% w/v; liquid 51.0% w/v). Therefore, this study demonstrated the efficiency of mixed starter cultures for safe and controlled rice wine production.

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The authors are grateful to Dr. K. M. Bujarbaruah (former Vice-Chancellor, AAU), Prof. B. K. Sarmah (Director, DBT-AAU Centre, AAU, Jorhat) and Prof. M. K. Modi (Head, Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, AAU, Jorhat) for their timely suggestion and encouragement throughout the research work. We also acknowledge Mr. Kuntal Ghosh, Distributed Information Centre (DIC) for his kind help in handling the metagenome data. The authors are grateful to the people of Ahom community for their kind support during the field survey and collection.

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Correspondence to Madhumita Barooah.

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All authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Metagenome data accession number

The metagenome is hosted at the MG-RAST server (accession number: mgm4556318.3) and Sequence Read Archive (SRA) database (accession number: PRJNA597963).

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Keot, J., Bora, S.S., Das Kangabam, R. et al. Assessment of microbial quality and health risks associated with traditional rice wine starter Xaj-pitha of Assam, India: a step towards defined and controlled fermentation. 3 Biotech 10, 64 (2020).

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  • Mould
  • Yeast
  • Contaminant
  • Aflatoxins
  • Biogenic amine