Main Research Theme: The interactions between yeast and their biological, chemical and physical environment
Group Leader: Prof. Alf Botha
NRF Rating: B3
Office: JC Smuts Building A342
Phone: +27 21 808 5856
The research of Prof. Alfred Botha is aimed at the interactions of fungi, including opportunistic fungal pathogens of mammals. Research projects include searching for natural habitats of the yeast Cryptococcus neoformans. In South Africa this opportunistic pathogen is annually responsible for thousands of deaths among those suffering from AIDS. However, very little is known about the natural habitats of C. neoformans and knowledge of this aspect will curb the spread of this yeast among the South African population. Currently, the interactions of C. neoformans with its natural environment are being studied.
In another research project the effect of soil yeasts on the nutrition of plants is being determined. This project acts as a preliminary investigation for the development of commercial preparations consisting of mycorrhizal fungi and yeasts that will be used in the cultivation of various agricultural crops. In other research projects aimed at studying the interactions of yeasts with plants, cellulolytic fungi occurring in indigenous woody habitats are being isolated and screened for their cellulolytic properties. Then, the interactions of these fungi with yeasts, originating from the same woody habitat, are being studied.
Other areas of microbial ecology that are being studied include the increase in numbers of medically important fungi in waters as a result of pollution, and impact of biochar on plant-microbe interactions.