NOVEL BIOCATALYSTS FROM EXTREMOPHILES
Ethiopia is endowed with an amazing diversity of extreme habitats that include alkaline and neutral hot springs, alkaline soda lakes, alkaline and neutral hypersaline as well as acidic habitats. Many of these extreme environments harbor a diverse group of microorganisms. Over the years, our laboratory has been working on the study of the diversity and potential applications of microorganisms from these habitats. Thus several microbial strains producing industrially important enzymes were isolated from these habitats. These enzymes were found to be potentially useful for application in the textile, leather tanning, food processing, detergent, and brewing industries. Some of the enzymes have already been tested at application condition in industry and were found to perform the same as or better than commercial enzymes. Currently all industries in Ethiopia that are using enzymes as processing aids import their requirement from abroad with the expenditure of scarce foreign currency. Development of enzymes locally for use by local industries is, therefore, expected to reduce the cost of enzyme import. In addition such enzymes could find market internationally.
DEVELOPMENT OF NOVEL INDUSTRIAL WASTE TREATMENT AND NUTRIENT RECOVERY PROCESSES
Industrialization and urbanization result in generation of huge amount of waste and lead to sever pollution of the environment. Although traditionally Ethiopia is an agrarian country with a small percentage of the population living in urban areas, in recent years urbanization is increasing resulted in population explosion in cities and towns. In addition the country is aggressively going into industrialization.
Because of their composition, some industrial wastes are very difficult to treat. In Ethiopia industrial wastewater released by the leather tanning, mining, and textile industries are the most difficult to treat. At present the government is giving attractive incentives for those investing in these sectors. Therefore, in the coming few years we expect more factories will be established in different parts of the country. Currently almost all industries release their waste directly to the environment. Thus, unless new and efficient methods of waste treatment are developed, the environmental damage they could cause could be enormous.
In the last few years, our laboratory has developed very efficient methods for the treatment of different industrial wastes with a removal efficiency of between 90 to 100% for COD and BOD. However, so far these are only limited to lab scale. It is therefore important to scale up the treatment processes and understand the underlying principles to help maximize the efficiency.
Another source of environmental pollution is domestic waste generated in urban areas. Increasing urbanization leads to accumulation of waste in one restricted locality, one of which is human excreta. To date there is no effective treatment available in all urban centers. In urban centers of Ethiopia including Addis Ababa, the different human waste collection and treatment systems strive to minimize human contact with the pathogens in excrement and enhance public health, but are unable return the nutrient to benefit the growth of crops for food production. One of the major constrains put on the infrastructure for recycling are the highly diluted nutrients in the excreta, e.g. approximately 0.5% nitrogen. Given that growth of human population and the global middle class is occurring in large urban centers in countries with evolving economies like Ethiopia, enhancing the performance and sustainability of decentralized waste treatment strategies is a high priority by the government. This strategy paves a way to efficiently recycle nutrients from urine waste while improving sanitation in the growing cities of low- income countries like Addis Ababa. Generally, urine is pathogen-free and low in heavy metal concentrations, but harbors pharmaceutical compounds and is prone to fecal contamination resulting in the presence of pathogens, helminth eggs and antibiotic resistance genes. Caution must therefore be taken while implementing the recovery of nutrients for agricultural intensification especially in the setting of low- income countries where such infections are prevalent.
MOLECULAR DIVERSITY OF ZOONOTIC PATHOGENS AND ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE (AMR) IN AN ANIMAL-HUMAN-ENVIRONMENT INTERFACE (ONE-HEALTH)
Humans and animals interact closely, especially in many rural communities where people live together with their livestock, and in urban agriculture, where the sheer lack of space forces livestock closer upon humans. Thus, human and animals share the same environment, the same living spaces, and, to a large extent, also the same pathogens. Moreover, there are increasing concerns that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – either in the form of whole bacteria or DNA – is transferred from livestock to humans. Zoonotic diseases are important in fact 60% of all diseases are zoonotic (Taylor et al., 2000). Globally, infections contribute more than 20% of the burden of disease (Patz et al., 2005), but in Africa the contribution is more than 70% (Engels and Savioli, 2006). Moreover, 75% of diseases considered to be ’emerging’ are zoonotic.
Ethiopia has the second largest human population in Africa; the livelihood of about 80% of the population is based on agriculture where livestock production constitutes an important integral part, with a total of 100 million cattle, sheep and goats (CSA, 2010). This huge resource supplies protein for the people and is a source of income in various ways. However, the resource faces huge challenges due to highly prevalent infectious diseases. In addition, the health of the public and international trade is also at risk of zoonoses from animal infections. The interaction between animals and humans is very high in Ethiopia. Considering this close contact between animals and humans, the risk for transmission of zoonotic pathogens from animals to man is very high. Most commonly, these zoonotic pathogens affect consumers as milk, meat, and environment (water, soil) borne pathogens; this is especially important in Ethiopia where consumption of raw meat (Seleshe et al., 2013) and raw milk (H Mariam, 2014) is an important cultural part and considered a delicacy. However, except for some reports, studies on the dynamics of zoonotic pathogens in “One Health”-perspective are rare. To understand the impact of zoonoses and AMR, how they are transmitted, and how interventions can be designed, the establishment of proper and accurate diagnostic methods is essential, and there is a need for both serological screening methods as well as molecular methods.
Therefore, this “One Health” project is proposed to thoroughly investigate two selected zoonotic pathogens, Brucella and Leptospira spp., and antimicrobial resistance with a focus on S. aureus and E. coli as model organisms. In addition, two important types of viruses in in a “One Health” perspective, coronaviruses and rotaviruses will be studied in detail. The proposal includes four PhD student projects, working in a sandwich model with options for common sampling procedures/epidemiological designs and considerable synergies. In each PhD-project there will be significant elements of laboratory method development and validation.