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The importance of the viable but non-culturable state in human bacterial pathogens

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      Abstract

      Many bacterial species have been found to exist in a viable but non-culturable (VBNC) state since its discovery in 1982. VBNC cells are characterized by a loss of culturability on routine agar, which impairs their detection by conventional plate count techniques. This leads to an underestimation of total viable cells in environmental or clinical samples, and thus poses a risk to public health. In this review, we present recent findings on the VBNC state of human bacterial pathogens. The characteristics of VBNC cells, including the similarities and differences to viable, culturable cells and dead cells, and different detection methods are discussed. Exposure to various stresses can induce the VBNC state, and VBNC cells may be resuscitated back to culturable cells under suitable stimuli. The conditions that trigger the induction of the VBNC state and resuscitation from it are summarized and the mechanisms underlying these two processes are discussed. Last but not least, the significance of VBNC cells and their potential influence on human health are also reviewed.

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      Bacterial biofilms: a common cause of persistent infections.

      Bacteria that attach to surfaces aggregate in a hydrated polymeric matrix of their own synthesis to form biofilms. Formation of these sessile communities and their inherent resistance to antimicrobial agents are at the root of many persistent and chronic bacterial infections. Studies of biofilms have revealed differentiated, structured groups of cells with community properties. Recent advances in our understanding of the genetic and molecular basis of bacterial community behavior point to therapeutic targets that may provide a means for the control of biofilm infections.
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        Biofilm formation as microbial development.

        Biofilms can be defined as communities of microorganisms attached to a surface. It is clear that microorganisms undergo profound changes during their transition from planktonic (free-swimming) organisms to cells that are part of a complex, surface-attached community. These changes are reflected in the new phenotypic characteristics developed by biofilm bacteria and occur in response to a variety of environmental signals. Recent genetic and molecular approaches used to study bacterial and fungal biofilms have identified genes and regulatory circuits important for initial cell-surface interactions, biofilm maturation, and the return of biofilm microorganisms to a planktonic mode of growth. Studies to date suggest that the planktonic-biofilm transition is a complex and highly regulated process. The results reviewed in this article indicate that the formation of biofilms serves as a new model system for the study of microbial development.
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          Physiological heterogeneity in biofilms.

          Biofilms contain bacterial cells that are in a wide range of physiological states. Within a biofilm population, cells with diverse genotypes and phenotypes that express distinct metabolic pathways, stress responses and other specific biological activities are juxtaposed. The mechanisms that contribute to this genetic and physiological heterogeneity include microscale chemical gradients, adaptation to local environmental conditions, stochastic gene expression and the genotypic variation that occurs through mutation and selection. Here, we discuss the processes that generate chemical gradients in biofilms, the genetic and physiological responses of the bacteria as they adapt to these gradients and the techniques that can be used to visualize and measure the microscale physiological heterogeneities of bacteria in biofilms.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            1Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, McGill University Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC, Canada
            2Department of Biology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte, NC, USA
            Author notes

            Edited by: Mickael Desvaux, INRA, France

            Reviewed by: Efstathios D. Giaouris, University of the Aegean, Greece; Akos T. Kovacs, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany; Joana Azeredo, University of Minho, Portugal

            *Correspondence: Sebastien P. Faucher, Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, McGill University, 21,111 Lakeshore, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Montreal, QC H9X 3V9, Canada e-mail: sebastien.faucher2@ 123456mcgill.ca

            This article was submitted to Microbial Physiology and Metabolism, a section of the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

            Contributors
            Journal
            Front Microbiol
            Front Microbiol
            Front. Microbiol.
            Frontiers in Microbiology
            Frontiers Media S.A.
            1664-302X
            02 June 2014
            2014
            : 5
            4040921 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00258
            Copyright © 2014 Li, Mendis, Trigui, Oliver and Faucher.

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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            Figures: 0, Tables: 1, Equations: 0, References: 224, Pages: 20, Words: 19901
            Categories
            Microbiology
            Review Article

            Microbiology & Virology

            biofilm, antibiotic, resuscitation, virulence, human pathogens, vbnc, stress

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