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Lett Appl Microbiol. 2010 Sep;51(3):331-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-765X.2010.02902.x. Epub 2010 Jul 15.

A new microtitre plate screening method for evaluating the viability of aerobic respiring bacteria in high surface biofilms.

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Laboratori de Microbiologia Sanitaria i Mediambiental (MSM-Lab) & Aquasost - UNESCO Chair in Sustainability, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), Terrassa, Barcelona, Spain.



It is difficult to determine the effects of bactericidal compounds against bacteria in a biofilm because classical procedures for determining cell viability require several working days, multiple complicated steps and are frequently only applicable to cells in suspension. We attempt to develop a compact, inexpensive and versatile system to measure directly the extent of biofilm formation from water systems and to determine the viability of respiring bacteria in high surface biofilms.


It has been reported that the reduction of tetrazolium sodium salts, such as XTT (sodium 3,3'-[1-[(phenylamino)carbonyl]-3,4-tetrazolium]Bis(4-methoxy)-6-nitro)benzene sulfonic acid hydrate), during active bacterial metabolism can be incorporated into a colorimetric method for quantifying cell viability. XTT is reduced to a soluble formazan compound during bacterial aerobic metabolism such that the amount of formazan generated is proportional to the bacterial biomass.


We show here, for the first time, that this colorimetric approach can be used to determine the metabolic activity of adherent aerobic bacteria in a biofilm as a measure of cell viability. This technique has been used to estimate viability and proliferation of bacteria in suspension, but this is the first application to microbial communities in a real undisturbed biofilm.


This simple new system can be used to evaluate the complex biofilm community without separating the bacteria from their support. Thus, the results obtained by this practice may be more representative of the circumstances in a natural system, opening the possibility to multiple potential applications.

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