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J Immunol Methods. 2004 Sep;292(1-2):187-93.

High-throughput imaging of bacterial colonies grown on filter plates with application to serum bactericidal assays.

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Department of Vaccine and Biologics Research, Merck Research Laboratories, Merck and Co., Inc., WP26B-1123, P.O. Box 4, West Point, PA 19486, USA.


The ability to accurately enumerate viable bacteria has applications in antibiotic screening assays, toxicology testing, and serological assays for functional antibodies. An impediment to high-throughput bacterial assays is the requirement to grow bacteria as individual colonies on semisolid media containing agar. We have now developed a method for growth, staining, and counting of bacterial colonies in 96-well filter plates. A unique feature of the method is that colony size is inversely proportional to the number of colonies in each well, presumably due to nutrient depletion. As a result, as many as 300 colony-forming units (cfu) can be detected as discrete colonies within a single assay well. The resulting colonies can be counted automatically using an imaging system originally developed for ELISPOT assays. The method has been applied to the measurement of serum bactericidal activity (SBA) in human sera.

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