SA Unearths Health Revolution in African Medicinal Plant!
Photo Cred: University of Johannesburg | Supplied

University of Johannesburg researchers’ groundbreaking discovery of Bacillus dicomae sp. nov. within the Dicoma anomala plant promises a revolution in healthcare and biotechnology.


Johannesburg, South Africa (15 November 2023) – In a groundbreaking exploration, researchers from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) have unearthed a new bacterial species residing within the indigenous medicinal sub-Saharan plant, Dicoma anomala.

This discovery, headed by the accomplished Prof Mahloro Serepa-Dlamini, the Head of the Department of Biotechnology and Food Technology at UJ, promises a wealth of potential applications in the realm of healthcare.

Published in the esteemed International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, the research spotlights the novel bacterial species, identified as Bacillus dicomae sp. nov., thriving within the commonly used medicinal plant in the southern African region, also known as the fever bush. Traditionally employed for treating diabetes mellitus and explored for its potential against malaria, the plant has now revealed an unexpected treasure trove within its roots.

Belonging to the Bacillus cereus group, which typically exhibits characteristics such as heat resistance, food poisoning potential, and implications in medical conditions like pneumonia and heart disease, this newly discovered bacteria species is steering away from the norm. While its counterparts may be commonly found in various environments like soil, the ocean, and food products, Bacillus dicomae sp. nov. has chosen a unique residence within the Dicoma anomala plant. This revelation is not just a scientific marvel; it holds promise for diverse applications. The Bacillus cereus group has previously demonstrated benefits in drug development, food production, probiotics, and biopesticides. However, when these bacteria act as endophytes, residing inside plants, they play a crucial role in safeguarding the plant and promoting its growth without causing harm to the environment.

The UJ research team, led by Prof Mahloro Serepa-Dlamini, embarked on this journey after engaging with native South Africans who have been using the plant for various ailments. Intrigued by its diverse applications, the researchers set out to explore if the plant harboured bacterial endophytes responsible for manufacturing medicinal compounds.

The ongoing research has entered a phase where the team is delving into the biotechnological applications of Bacillus dicomae sp. nov. Their goal is to explore unique biochemical properties, enzymes, or metabolites that could find applications in pharmaceuticals, agriculture, food, and biotechnology. This, in turn, could pave the way for the development of innovative products and technologies, driving economic growth.

The significance of this discovery is heightened by the fact that Bacillus dicomae sp. nov. is the first novel bacterial species to be identified and described by UJ researchers.

Ms Sephokoane Cindy Makuwa, a PhD student involved in the research, is currently investigating the antimicrobial activity of the bacterium, assaying its spores for formulations that could combat pathogenic fungal species.

As the UJ research team continues to unravel the mysteries hidden within the medicinal properties of the fever bush, the potential for groundbreaking advancements in healthcare, agriculture, and beyond is on the horizon.

This discovery not only celebrates scientific achievement but also opens doors to a future where nature’s secrets contribute to the betterment of society.

Sources: University of Johannesburg
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