Koumiss is a slightly alcoholic fermented mare's milk beverage, originally obtained by using a natural mixed starter of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts. Yeast is an important component of Koumiss processing which can affect the aroma, texture, as well as the nutrients beneficial to human health, but few reports have examined the yeast ecology of local ecosystems. The purpose of this study was to isolate and identify the yeast present in Koumiss from three representative regions of China using a polyphasic method. A total of 655 yeast isolates were obtained from 96 Koumiss samples collected from three regions in China. Koumiss harbored yeast populations at 5-7 log CFU/ml. Twelve different yeast species belonging to nine genera were detected in the Koumiss samples tested, including Candida pararugosa, Dekkera anomala, Geotrichum sp., Issatchenkia orientalis, Kazachstania unispora, Kluyveromyces marxianus, Pichia deserticola, Pichia fermentans, Pichia manshurica, Pichia membranaefaciens, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Torulaspora delbrueckii. Kluyveromyces marxianus, Kazachstania unispora and Saccharomyces cerevisiae were the dominant species present in this traditional fermented dairy product. This study is the first to identify the yeast communities associated with Koumiss in China. The results enrich our knowledge of yeast in Koumiss, give us a more complete picture of the microbial diversity in Koumiss and can be used to promote the development of the local dairy industry.
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