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Lett Appl Microbiol. 2000 Jul;31(1):77-81.

Development of a direct viable count procedure for the investigation of VBNC state in Listeria monocytogenes.

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Unité Mixte de Recherches hygiène des aliments INRA-ENVN, Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire de Nantes, Route de Gachet, NANTES, France.


A viable but non-culturable (VBNC) bacterial state was originally detected in studies in environmental microbiology. In particular, this state has been demonstrated for a number of human pathogens (Escherichia coli, Salmonella enteritidis, Vibrio cholerae, Legionella pneumophila and Campylobacter jejuni). The presence of VBNC cells poses a major public health problem since they cannot be detected by traditional culturing methods and the cells remain potentially pathogenic under favourable conditions. But, as far as we know, the VBNC state has not been yet described in Listeria monocytogenes. In most studies, this has been assessed by the Kogure procedure based on cellular elongation in the presence of DNA gyrase inhibitors. The antibiotic used was nalidixic acid in order to prevent DNA replication, only efficient in Gram-negative bacteria studies. In this study, we describe a new DVC procedure to detect and count viable of L. monocytogenes suspended in filtered, sterilized distilled water. We used different concentrations of ciprofloxacin, efficient both in Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. Bacteria cells were removed and resuspended in BHI broth, with yeast extract and ciprofloxacin. The mixture was incubated at different incubation times at 37 degrees C. After different incubation times, cells were filtered through an isopore polycarbonate black membrane filter and covered with a DAPI solution or orange acridine. The filters were prepared and examined by epifluorescence microscopy. Elongated cells were counted as viable cells, whereas normal size was regarded as nonactive ones. This method allows determination of ciprofloxacin concentration and incubation time optimal to detect maximum viable cells percentage in L. monocytogenes.

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