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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1990 Feb;56(2):352-6.

Enumeration and biomass estimation of planktonic bacteria and viruses by transmission electron microscopy.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Plant Physiology, University of Bergen, Norway.


Bacteria and virus particles were harvested from water samples by ultracentrifugation directly onto Formvar-coated electron microscopy grids and counted in a transmission electron microscope. With this technique, we have counted and sized bacteria and viruses in marine water samples and during laboratory incubations. By X-ray microanalysis, we could determine the elemental composition and dry-matter content of individual bacteria. The dry weight/volume ratio for the bacteria was 600 fg of dry weight microns-3. The potassium content of the bacteria was normal compared with previous estimates from other bacterial assemblages; thus, this harvesting procedure did not disrupt the bacterial cells. Virus particles were, by an order of magnitude, more abundant than bacteria in marine coastal waters. During the first 5 to 7 days of incubation, the total number of viruses increased exponentially at a rate of 0.4 day-1 and thereafter declined. The high proliferation rate suggests that viral parasitism may affect mortality of bacteria in aquatic environments.

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