Viable but nonculturable

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Transverse section of a transmission electron micrograph of actively growing (Panel A) and nonculturable (Panel B) Yersinia pestis. Bar equals 0.5 microns.

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]

The existence of the VBNC state is controversial. The validity and interpretation of the assays to determine the VBNC state have been questioned.[2]

VBNC pathogens[edit]

Species known to enter a VBNC state:[3]


  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. ^ Stokell, Joshua R; Steck, Todd R (2012). "Viable but Nonculturable Bacteria". doi:10.1002/9780470015902.a0000407.pub2.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Capozzi V; et al. "Viable But Not Culturable (VBNC) state of Brettanomyces bruxellensis in wine: New insights on molecular basis of VBNC behaviour using a transcriptomic approach".
  5. ^ Pawlowski, D. R.; Metzger, D. J.; Raslawsky, A; Howlett, A; Siebert, G; Karalus, R. J.; Garrett, S; Whitehouse, C. A. (2011). "Entry of Yersinia pestis into the viable but nonculturable state in a low-temperature tap water microcosm". PLoS ONE. 6 (3): e17585. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017585. PMC 3059211. PMID 21436885.