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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 1997 Sep 15;154(2):283-8.

Flow cytometric analysis of chlorhexidine action.

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Division of Infection, United Medical School of Guy's Hospital, London, UK.


The mechanism by which chlorhexidine kills bacteria is still ill defined. We have investigated the action of chlorhexidine on Escherichia coli JM101/psb311 using a combination of flow cytometry and traditional methods. Chlorhexidine-induced uptake by E. coli cells of bis-(1,3-dibutylbarturic acid) trimethine oxonol and propidium iodide, which monitor membrane potential and membrane integrity respectively, was shown to be concentration dependent for the range 0.003-0.3 mmol-1. In addition, cells in log phase growth were more susceptible to 0.03 mmol-1 chlorhexidine than those in stationary phase. There was, however, no direct correlation between dye uptake and decline in colony forming units.

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