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Discovery of Two Novel Bacteria in Ngari from Manipur

Last Updated on March 20, 2024 by SPN Editor

Manipur, a region abundant in freshwater bodies, has historically been self-sufficient in fish production. The surplus fish were sun-dried and either sold or preserved. Despite the lower market value of sun-dried fish, Meetei people ingeniously transformed these into Ngari, a value-added product, using indigenous fermentation techniques. This process of fish fermentation, or Nga leeba, traditionally takes six to seven months.

Ngari, a fermented fish product, is a staple in Manipuri cuisine, used as a flavor-enhancing ingredient in various dishes such as Singju, Morok metpa, and Iromba. It is widely consumed and appreciated in the Northeastern Hill regions of Indian states like Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Tripura.

The fermentation of Phabou (Puntius spp) was first initiated in 1985 at the erstwhile Manipur Agricultural College, Iroisemba (now Central Agricultural University) by Dr. N Iboton Singh. Subsequent research led to the successful fermentation of Phabou to Ngari within 45 days using isolated bacteria from fresh quality Ngari of Khwairamband Ima Keithel. However, the specific bacteria involved were not identified at that time.

In 2018, researchers collected samples of high-quality Ngari, Phabou, and fresh fish from vendors at Ima Keithel and Singjamei markets for bacterial isolation. Two new endoichthysic bacteria, Bacillus safiens and B. amyloliquifaciens, were consistently associated with Ngari collected from Singjamei markets. These bacteria were identified for the first time after sequencing.

Interestingly, most of the Ngari samples collected from Ima Keithel vendors failed to isolate both bacteria. However, these two bacteria were also found in fresh and dried Phabou Nga.

With these bacteria, Ngari can be produced within 40-45 days. Fish fermentation has been reported in many countries, including China, Japan, and Korea. The bacteria used in these countries differ from those found in Manipur. Therefore, it is hoped that the current gap between demand and supply will narrow down in the future using these beneficial bacteria.

Fish is known to provide proteins. Additionally, Bacillus spp are reported to produce peptide antibiotics. These peptides exhibit broad-spectrum biological activities, including antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Hence, Ngari from Manipur, laden with these useful bacterial antibiotics during the fermentation period, could protect us from several diseases.

However, Ngari without these beneficial bacteria may not have such positive impacts when consumed. During the plague epidemic caused by Bacillus yersinia pestis in India from 1896-1911, there were no reports of plague sufferers in Manipur. This might be due to the regular consumption of quality Ngari containing these Bacillus species.

However, more scientific studies on health benefits need to be explored in the current era of climate change. Further research is underway at the Green Foundation in Imphal under the supervision of Prof Naorem Iboton Singh, former DEAN, College of Agriculture, CAU, Imphal.

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