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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2001 Sep;67(9):3928-33.

Examination of recovery in vitro and in vivo of nonculturable Escherichia coli O157:H7.

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Department of Food Science, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, USA.


Escherichia coli O157:H7 (strains ATCC 43895 and FO46) became nonculturable in sterile, distilled, deionized water or after exposure to chlorine. Recovery of nonculturable E. coli O157:H7 was examined by in vitro and in vivo methods. The decline in culturability of starved E. coli O157:H7 was measured by plate count on rich medium. Recovery in vitro of nonculturable cells was conducted with media amended with catalase or sodium pyruvate; however, there was no apparent increase over culturable cell counts on amended versus nonamended media. Although nonculturable E. coli O157:H7 did not recover under in vitro conditions, a mouse model was used to determine if in vivo conditions would provide sufficient conditions for recovery of nonculturable E. coli O157:H7. In separate studies, mice were orally challenged with starvation-induced nonculturable cells (FO46) or chlorine-induced nonculturable cells (43895 and FO46). Passage through the mouse gastrointestinal tract had no effect on recovery of nonculturable (starvation or chlorine induced) E. coli O157:H7 (43895 or FO46), based on analysis of fecal samples. Mouse kidneys were assayed for the presence of Shiga toxin using the Vero cell assay. Differences in cytotoxicity towards Vero cells from kidney samples of mice receiving nonculturable cells and control mice were not significant, suggesting a loss of virulence.

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