Viable but nonculturable

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Viable but nonculturable (VBNC) bacteria refers to bacteria that are in a state of very low metabolic activity and do not divide, but are alive and have the ability to become culturable once resuscitated.[1]

Bacteria in a VBNC state cannot grow on standard growth media, though flow cytometry can measure the viability of the bacteria.[1] Bacteria can enter the VBNC state as a response to stress, due to adverse nutrient, temperature, osmotic, oxygen, and light conditions.[1] The cells that are in the VBNC state are morphologically smaller, and demonstrate reduced nutrient transport, rate of respiration, and synthesis of macromolecules.[1] Sometimes, VBNC bacteria can remain in that state for over a year.[1] It has been shown that numerous pathogens and non-pathogens can enter the VBNC state, and therefore it has significant implications in pathogenesis, bioremediation, and other branches of microbiology.[1]

VBNC pathogens[edit]

Species known to enter a VBNC state:[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Oliver JD (February 2005). "The viable but nonculturable state in bacteria". The Journal of Microbiology 43 (special issue (No. S)): 93–100. PMID 15765062. 
  2. ^ Oliver, JD. (Jul 2010). "Recent findings on the viable but nonculturable state in pathogenic bacteria.". FEMS Microbiol Rev 34 (4): 415–25. doi:10.1111/j.1574-6976.2009.00200.x. PMID 20059548.