A New Initiative to Study The Microbiome of Sub-Saharan Africa

Scientists have begun the first large-scale survey of microbial life in sub-Saharan Africa, analyzing 1,000 Ziploc bags of dirt from 10 countries, the journal Nature reported. The three-year initiative, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), hopes to improve understanding of Africa’s diverse microbial biome in an effort to stave off the worst climate change impacts and improve agricultural practices. The project is being led by ecologist Dan Cowan at the University of Pretoria and will involve sampling soils in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and South Africa. The scientists will first analyze DNA to identify bacteria in the soils before looking into soil fungi in the next phase of the initiative.