Do viability methods detect all viable organisms?
Many bacterial species have been found to exist in a viable but non-culturable state. Jeanne Moldenhauer discusses this phenomenon and makes suggestions as to why we don’t often see an increase in viable cells when using viability-based methods.
Moldenhauer1 discussed some changes in how clinical microbiologists are evaluating samples for viable cultures. Study of the gut microbiota has required the development of new culture and evaluation methods. Lagier, et al.2 indicated that as many as 80 percent of human gut bacteria are unknown and considered ‘unculturable’. This is like the term used by many pharmaceutical microbiologists – ‘viable but not culturable’ (VBNC).
As a result of studies conducted on the human microbiome, new methods are being developed for culture and recovery of human viable microorganisms. The data being generated indicate that several previously used culture methods do not detect all of the organisms present. The previously non-culturable organisms require various treatments including longer incubation periods. The use of these types of methods has been called the “rebirth of culture in microbiology.”1,2
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