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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Mar;74(5):1502-7. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02125-07. Epub 2008 Jan 18.

Detection of viable but nonculturable Escherichia coli O157:H7 bacteria in drinking water and river water.

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  • 1Division of Analytical and Environmental Toxicology, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2G3, Canada.


A sensitive method for specific detection of viable Escherichia coli O157:H7 cells, including viable but nonculturable (VBNC) cells, in water samples was developed. This method involved capture of the bacterial cells on a low-protein-binding membrane and direct extraction and purification of RNA followed by reverse transcription-PCR and electronic microarray detection of the rfbE and fliC genes of E. coli O157:H7. It detected as few as 1 CFU of E. coli O157:H7 in diluted cultures, 3 to 4 CFU/liter in tap water, 7 CFU/liter in river water, and 50 VBNC cells in 1 liter of river water, demonstrating the best limit of detection reported to date for VBNC cells in environmental water samples.

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