Saba Sana and Prof Dr Aftab Ahmad Anjum

Fungi belong to group of microbes and may be unicellular or multicellular. Multicellular fungi are called molds and grow in threadlike structures. A large number of multicellular fungi are present in soil. These soil fungi play role in recycling of nutrients, water dynamics, disease suppression and decomposition of hard to digest material into digestible form. This ability is due to diverse metabolism of fungi. Soil fungi produce beneficial products. These are organic acids, sugars, antibiotics and enzymes. Fungi are commonly used for industrial scale production of beneficial products.

Amylase enzymes are used in starch based industries such as paper, food, pharmaceutical, detergent and textile industry, in baking process, for treatment of waste water coming from food processing plants to break down (hydrolyze) starch. Amylases are also used as feed supplements in poultry industry to improve digestibility of starch based diet in birds. Amylase producing fungi are being used for bio-ethanol production from microalgae to overcome shortage of fuel in today’s world. Amylases are produced by human, animals, plants, parasites and microbes. However, microbial amylases are cost effective and meet the industrial demand due to their fast growth rate as compared to plants and animals. Microbes can also be manipulated for enhanced production of amylases.

In recent research carried out by Saba Sana under supervision of Prof Dr Aftab Ahmad Anjum, Professor of Microbiology at University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) Lahore, soil of livestock farms were evaluated for presence of starch hydrolyzing fungi. From 145 different soils of District Lahore, Pakistan 1101 fungi were isolated. Among these 12.76 percent were starch hydrolyzers. Further, these fungi were screened for mycotoxin production; it was found that 27.5 percent starch hydrolyzing fungi were mycotoxin producers. The starch hydrolyzing fungi were identified based on morphology and microscopy as Aspergillus, Penecillium and Zygomycete species. Different physical (pH, temperature) and chemical parameters (maize, wheat bran and rice husk) were optimized for enhanced production of amylases. Different fungi produced higher enzymes under different physical and chemical conditions.

It was concluded that indigenous isolates of fungi from livestock farms have potential for bioconversion of starchy components of plant based materials. These isolates may be used for industrial production of amylases to fulfill demands of starch based industries.