PMIL-supported researcher trains others at home in Ethiopia

By Allison Floyd

University of Georgia, Peanut & Mycotoxin Innovation Lab

Making use of the training he received through the Peanut & Mycotoxin Innovation Lab, Ethiopian graduate student Abdi Hassen recently taught the aflatoxin detection technique he learned in the U.S. to supervisors and colleagues in his home country.

Hassen, who is expected to receive a PhD later this year, worked with PMIL scientist Renee Arias at the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Peanut Research Laboratory (USDA NPRL) in Dawson, Ga. His work in Georgia involved analyzing 400 isolates of Aspergillus, a mold that can create aflatoxin in groundnuts, maize and other crops, that were collected in Ethiopia.

After molecular fingerprinting of the isolates, he learned to perform cluster analysis to study the diversity and compare to other isolates around the world. He also wrote a manuscript and submitted it for publication, as well as an abstract for the American Peanut Research and Education Society (APRES) meeting.

Back at Haramaya University in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, Hassen will complete his thesis research on aflatoxin contamination in Ethiopian groundnut. He is also helping fellow doctoral student Solomon Debele, who is researching how to manage aflatoxin contamination with improved varieties, analyze his samples.

PMIL equipped Hassen with a mobile aflatoxin detection kit that is based on the Mobile Assay eReader technology using common electronic tablets and Neogen’s lateral flow test strips to determine the aflatoxin level in peanuts and other crops. Because the system is portable and relatively inexpensive, it allows researchers to complete work without sending samples away for testing.

“After I graduate, my plan is to establish a sustainable molecular and aflatoxin laboratory which will help our students at the newly established Bule Hora University,” Hassen said. “The laboratory facility there is limiting our researchers from promising projects, so I have a strong desire to solve that problem by collaborating with partners abroad.”

Hassen is passionate about reducing aflatoxin in the food supply, contamination that can lead to acute poisoning, cancer and likely stunting in children, according to a recent report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Published March 15, 2016