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Environ Microbiol. 2003 Oct;5(10):850-8.

Persistence of adhesive properties in Vibrio cholerae after long-term exposure to sea water.

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1
Istituto di Microbiologia e Scienze Biomediche, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy.

Abstract

The effect of exposure to artificial sea water (ASW) on the ability of classical Vibrio cholerae O1 cells to interact with chitin-containing substrates and human intestinal cells was studied. Incubation of vibrios in ASW at 5 degrees C and 18 degrees C resulted in two kinds of cell responses: the viable but non-culturable (VBNC) state (i.e. <0.1 colony forming unit ml-1) at 5 degrees C, and starvation (i.e. maintenance of culturability of the population) at 18 degrees C. The latter remained rod shaped and, after 40 days' incubation, presented a 47-58% reduction in the number of cells attached to chitin, a 48-53% reduction in the number of bacteria adhering to copepods, and a 48-54% reduction in the number of bacteria adhering to human cultured intestinal cells, compared to control cells not suspended in ASW. Bacteria suspended in ASW at 5 degrees C became coccoid and, after 40 days, showed 34-42% fewer cells attached to chitin, 52-55% fewer adhering to copep-ods, and 45-48% fewer cells adhering to intestinal cell monolayers, compared to controls. Sarkosyl-insoluble membrane proteins that bind chitin particles were isolated and analysed by SDS-PAGE. After 40 days incubation in ASW at both 5 degrees C and 18 degrees C vibrios expressed chitin-binding ligands similar to bacteria harvested in the stationary growth phase. It is concluded that as vibrios do not lose adhesive properties after long-term exposure to ASW, it is important to include methods for VBNC bacteria when testing environmental and clinical samples for purposes of public health safety.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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