Traditional dairy fermented food (Mabisi) influence on the gut microbiota composition and functionality among children aged 6 to 36 months

Our project focus on indigenous dairy fermented food (Mabisi) commonly consumed by a wider age range population in the Central, Western and Southern parts of Zambia. Mabisi is usually produced using raw cow’s milk by spontaneous fermentation. It has been found to contain potentially probiotic microorganisms and metabolites that are reported to be beneficial to the gut intestinal lining and its commensal bacterial community.

Having known Mabisi’s microbiota and its functionality from past studies conducted by WUR, we found it imperative to further study its influence on the children gut microbiota composition and functionality. Results from our survey and in vitro studies will generate information critical in promoting health and well-being.


Food intake is evidenced to influence shifts in gut microbiota composition in humans. Previous studies have indicated the potential to use specific foods for strengthening the presumed health-promoting role of the gut microbiota, for instance by preventing pathogenic bacterial species and parasites. Here, we focus to investigate such a role for Mabisi, a Zambian traditional dairy fermented food product. Overall, the anticipated primary outcome of this study is confirming and describing shifts in gut microbiota composition associated with Mabisi consumption, with the secondary outcome establishing the potential for improvement of general health of children.

Project description

To assess shifts in gut microbiota and health potential of Mabisi, we addressed three interconnected research questions. Firstly, we investigated through a baseline survey, factors associated gut microbiota composition variation among children aged 6 to 36 months old. Information on demographic, socio-economic, nutrition status, hygiene/sanitation, and medical background was collected. Secondly, based on the interesting outcomes in the survey study, we conducted in vitro studies using a validated INFOGEST static digestive laboratory model. Here, shifts in microbial community composition and their secreted metabolites in the lower gut compartment in stool samples of healthy children upon exposure to Mabisi variations were investigated. Thirdly, a pathogen challenge experiment was conducted to check gut microbiota composition variation upon exposure to known pathogens in the presence of Mabisi digest. Overall, we anticipate to generate evidence on the influence of Mabisi on the gut microbiota composition and functionality of children.


Our preliminary results for the survey show that age, breastfeeding, antibiotic use and Mabisi consumption is associated with changes in the gut microbiota composition. We are in the process of consolidating the survey results with complete results to be shared soon.