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Appl Environ Microbiol. Nov 1996; 62(11): 4114–4120.
PMCID: PMC168233

Death of the Escherichia coli K-12 strain W3110 in soil and water.


Whether Escherichia coli K-12 strain W3110 can enter the "viable but nonculturable" state was studied with sterile and nonsterile water and soil at various temperatures. In nonsterile river water, the plate counts of added E. coli cells dropped to less than 10 CFU/ml in less than 10 days. Acridine orange direct counts, direct viable counts, most-probable-number estimates, and PCR analyses indicated that the added E. coli cells were disappearing from the water in parallel with the number of CFU. Similar results were obtained with nonsterile soil, although the decline of the added E. coli was slower. In sterile water or soil, the added E. coli persisted for much longer, often without any decline in the plate counts even after 50 days. In sterile river water at 37 degrees C and sterile artificial seawater at 20 and 37 degrees C, the plate counts declined by 3 to 5 orders of magnitude, while the acridine orange direct counts remained unchanged. However, direct viable counts and various resuscitation studies all indicated that the nonculturable cells were nonviable. Thus, in either sterile or nonsterile water and soil, the decline in plate counts of E. coli K-12 strain W3110 is not due to the cells entering the viable but nonculturable state, but is simply due to their death.

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Selected References

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