Introduce of Viable But Nonculturable Bacteria

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Ph.D Student of Microbiology, Isfahan University

2 Professor of Biology, Faculty of Science, Isfahan University


Viable-But-Nonculturable-State (VBNC) is the condition in which bacteria fail to grow on their routine bacteriological media where they would normally grow and develop into colonies, but are still alive and capable of renewed metabolic activity. VBNC state is useful for evaluating public health and for ascertaining the sterility of drinking water, pharmaceuticals, and foodstuff. A number of bacteria, mostly pathogenic to humans, have been proved to enter into this state in response to natural stresses such as starvation, incubation out of optimum growth temperature, increased osmotic pressure, etc. Once in the VBNC state, they undergo various physiological, structural, and genetic alterations. These alterations result in reduced cell size, conversion from bacilli to coccid, thickened cell walls, and peptidoglycan gaining many cross links. Metabolic changes also occur that include reductions in growth, nutrient transport, and respiratory rate; biosynthesis of new protein, and ATP remaining at a constant level. It has been shown that in the VBNC state, some pathogens conserve their virulence properties. Gene expression continues in the VBNC cell. Nucleic acids remain intact in the early VBNC phase but they gradually undergo degradation with prolonged VBNC. Cytological methods such as direct viable count and reduction of tetrazolium salts, and molecular methods such as reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and green fluorescent protein have been used for the study of VBNC. Resuscitation from VBNC state starts when the inducing factor(s) is/are lifted. Factors that help the resuscitation of VBNC bacteria include addition of certain nutrients and chemicals, introduction of a few culturable cells into the VBNC cell population, and passage through the animal host. As virulence properties are sustained during the VBNC phase, special care must be paid when evaluating sterility of drinking water.


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