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Water Res. 2010 Jul;44(13):3807-18. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2010.04.027. Epub 2010 Apr 29.

Direct quantification of bacterial biomass in influent, effluent and activated sludge of wastewater treatment plants by using flow cytometry.

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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Trento, via Mesiano, 77, 38050 Trento, Italy.


A rapid multi-step procedure, potentially amenable to automation, was proposed for quantifying viable and active bacterial cells, estimating their biovolume using flow cytometry (FCM) and to calculate their biomass within the main stages of a wastewater treatment plant: raw wastewater, settled wastewater, activated sludge and effluent. Fluorescent staining of bacteria using SYBR-Green I + Propidium Iodide (to discriminate cell integrity or permeabilisation) and BCECF-AM (to identify enzymatic activity) was applied to count bacterial cells by FCM. A recently developed specific procedure was applied to convert Forward Angle Light Scatter measured by FCM into the corresponding bacterial biovolume. This conversion permits the calculation of the viable and active bacterial biomass in wastewater, activated sludge and effluent, expressed as Volatile Suspended Solids (VSS) or particulate Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD). Viable bacterial biomass represented only a small part of particulate COD in raw wastewater (4.8 +/- 2.4%), settled wastewater (10.7 +/- 3.1%), activated sludge (11.1 +/- 2.1%) and effluent (3.2 +/- 2.2%). Active bacterial biomass counted for a percentage of 30-47% of the viable bacterial biomass within the stages of the wastewater treatment plant.

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