Characterization of bacterial species in Steinkopf a communal farming area in South Africa: A closer look at pathogenesis
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The human population in sub-Saharan Africa has been increasing due to decreases in mortality rates and increases in average human age; in turn increasing poverty and pressure placed on agriculture and agricultural production. However, livestock production in South Africa, and globally, is declining due to disease and parasite prevalence, lack of feed, poor breeding, marketing management, change in nutrition in both livestock and humans, rapid urbanization, encroachment on wildlife and unfavourable climatic conditions brought about by global change. One unintended consequence has been the emergence and spread of transboundary animal diseases and, more specifically, the resurgence and emergence of zoonotic disease. Zoonotic diseases are sicknesses transmissible from animals to humans, resulting from direct contact or environmental reservoirs. Previous studies have identified small-scale farmers as the group most prevalent to contracting zoonotic diseases, especially those working in a communal dispensation. Therefore, this study focused on the communal farming area of Steinkopf in the semi-arid Namaqualand region of South Africa. Steinkopf is one of the largest Act 9 areas, with communal land tenure and a mixed farming system, sheep and goats, on about 759 ha. Steinkopf is divided into two rainfall regions, the Succulent Karoo (winter rainfall region) and the Nama Karoo (summer rainfall region). This study aims to identify and characterise the bacterial microbial communities found in the topsoil layer and faecal matter (dung) within the winter and summer rainfall regions of Steinkopf communal rangeland using Next-generation sequencing. Further, the aim is to assess whether pathogenic bacteria are present within the rangeland and what their potential impact on the local farming community might be if present. A high-throughput sequencing technique (Next-generation sequencing) was used to amplify 16S rRNA targeting the V3-V4 hypervariable regions. The phylotypes produced were 37 phyla, 353 families and 634 genera of which the most abundant bacterial phyla were Planctomycetes, Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes and the most abundant genera were Gemmata, Akkermansia and Arthrobacter. Alpha diversity indices showed a variation in species diversity, evenness and richness between soil and dung samples, it shows a higher species richness, evenness and unique OTUs detected in summer soil samples and at natural water holes. Through these analysis soil samples were regarded as superior to dung samples within this particular environment and for this particular study. Natural water holes were identified as a safer option when compared to man-made water holes as there are natural systems in place that combat the spread and growth of harmful bacterial microbes. It was found that seasonality has a great impact on the development and growth of environmental bacterial microbiota and that the current randomness of grazing routes and migrations within the Steinkopf communal rangeland is not a detriment but instead acts as a benefits to environmental and livestock health. Furthermore, a total of three pathogenic bacteria were identified however, they occurred at relatively low abundances. It can thus be concluded that this study thoroughly describes the usefulness of using a high-throughput sequencing technique such as Next-generation sequencing when amplifying a small sample size in order to achieve a large volume of information; and that currently the Steinkopf communal rangeland is not subjected to or at risk of a potential zoonotic threat.