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J Bacteriol. Aug 1991; 173(16): 5054–5059.
PMCID: PMC208195

Resuscitation of Vibrio vulnificus from the viable but nonculturable state.


Stationary-phase-grown cells of the estuarine bacterium Vibrio vulnificus became nonculturable in nutrient-limited artificial seawater microcosms after 27 days at 5 degrees C. When the nonculturable cells were subjected to temperature upshift by being placed at room temperature, the original bacterial numbers were detectable by plate counts after 3 days, with a corresponding increase in the direct viable counts from 3% to over 80% of the total cell count. No increase in the total cell count was observed during resuscitation, indicating that the plate count increases were not due to growth of a few culturable cells. Chloramphenicol and ampicillin totally inhibited resuscitation of the nonculturable cells when added to samples that had been at room temperature for up to 24 h. After 72 h of resuscitation, the inhibitors had an easily detectable but reduced effect on the resuscitated cells, indicating that protein and peptidoglycan synthesis were still ongoing. Major changes in the morphology of the cells were discovered. Nonculturable cells of V. vulnificus were small cocci (approximately 1.0 micron in diameter). Upon resuscitation, the cells became large rods with a size of mid-log-phase cells (3.0 microns in length). Four days after the cells had become fully resuscitated, the cell size had decreased to approximately 1.5 micron in length and 0.7 micron in width. The cells were able to go through at least two cycles of nonculturability and subsequent resuscitation without changes in the total cell count. This is the first report of resuscitation, without the addition of nutrient, of nonculturable cells, and it is suggested that temperature may be the determining factor in the resuscitation from this survival, or adaptation, state of certain species in estuarine environments.

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Selected References

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