Send to

Choose Destination
J Microbiol Methods. 2003 May;53(2):175-83.

Molecular methods for the assessment of bacterial viability.

Author information

BioAnalytical Innovation Team, LGC Limited, Queens Road, Teddington, Middlesex TW11 0LY, UK.


A significant number of pathogenic microorganisms can be found in environmental reservoirs (air, water, soil). It is important to assess the viability status of these organisms to determine whether they pose a threat to public health. Classical methods for determining viability are time consuming. Hence, molecular methods have been developed to address this problem. Molecular methods offer speed, sensitivity and specificity. Both DNA and RNA have been analysed using molecular amplification methods such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) and nucleic acid sequence-based amplification (NASBA). However, due to the variable persistence of nucleic acids in cells post-death, the correlation between presence of DNA and RNA and viability is not clear-cut. Similarly, the choice of target and sensitivity of the method can significantly affect the validity of the viability assay. This review assesses the molecular methods currently available and evaluates their ability to assess cell viability with emphasis on environmental pathogens.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center