Factsheet: Viable but non-culturable bacteria

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What are VBNC bacteria

The viable but non-culturable (VBNC) state is a unique strategy with which bacteria respond to unfavorable environmental conditions. In the VBNC state bacteria have a low metabolic activity and often do not grow or divide. Nevertheless, they are viable and in some cases, they can still be infectious.

Why are VBNC bacteria a problem?

As some of the VBNC bacteria can still be infectious and cause disease, they are considered a threat to humans and animals. Importantly, the standard method for detection of many bacteria in food and drinks, is based on cultivating bacteria in culture media. Because VBNC bacteria usually do not show growth on agar plates or in liquid culture media, they are not detected by the standard method.

Examples of pathogens that can enter the VBNC state

• Legionella pneumophila
• Listeria monocytogenes
• Pseudomonas aeruginosa
• Salmonella typhi
• Salmonella typhimurium
• Streptococcus faecalis

How can VBNC bacteria be detected?

The combination of immunomagnetic separation of target cells and detection by flow cytometry via fluorescent antibodies is fast and reliable.
rqmicro successfully adapts this technology, and is thereby able to provide solid results for VBNC while keeping the cell integrity intact.
Check out this page to find out more about rqmicro’s solution on VBNC detection.
Viable but Nonculturable Bacteria: Food Safety and Public Health Perspective

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