Local domestication of lactic acid bacteria via cassava beer fermentation

Alese M. Colehour, James F. Meadow, Melissa A. Liebert, Tara J. Cepon-Robins, Theresa E. Gildner, Samuel S. Urlacher, Brendan J.M. Bohannan, Josh J. Snodgrass, Lawrence S. Sugiyama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Cassava beer, or chicha, is typically consumed daily by the indigenous Shuar people of the Ecuadorian Amazon. This traditional beverage made from cassava tuber (Manihot esculenta) is thought to improve nutritional quality and flavor while extending shelf life in a tropical climate. Bacteria responsible for chicha fermentation could be a source of microbes for the human microbiome, but little is known regarding the microbiology of chicha.We investigated bacterial community composition of chicha batches using Illumina high-throughput sequencing. Fermented chicha samples were collected from seven Shuar households in two neighboring villages in the Morona-Santiago region of Ecuador, and the composition of the bacterial communities within each chicha sample was determined by sequencing a region of the 16S ribosomal gene.Members of the genus Lactobacillus dominated all samples. Significantly greater phylogenetic similarity was observed among chicha samples taken within a village than those from different villages. Community composition varied among chicha samples, even those separated by short geographic distances, suggesting that ecological and/or evolutionary processes, including human-mediated factors, may be responsible for creating locally distinct ferments. Our results add to evidence from other fermentation systems suggesting that traditional fermentation may be a form of domestication, providing endemic beneficial inocula for consumers, but additional research is needed to identify the mechanisms and extent of microbial dispersal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere479
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • 16S ribosomal
  • Alcoholic beverage
  • Artisanal starter culture
  • Fermentation
  • Food microbiology
  • High-throughput sequencing
  • Lactic acid bacteria
  • Lactobacillus
  • Maniot
  • Microbial domestication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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