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Surviving the acid barrier: responses of pathogenic Vibrio cholerae to simulated gastric fluid

Singh, Atheesha, Barnard, Tobias G.
Applied microbiology and biotechnology 2016 v.100 no.2 pp. 815-824
Vibrio cholerae O1, acid tolerance, bacteria, gastric juice, humans, intestines, pH, plate count, public health, stomach, viability
When bacteria are subjected to low acidic pHs of the gastric environment, they may enter the viable but nonculturable (VBNC) state of survival. In this state, bacteria cannot be cultured on solid media, still exhibit signs of metabolic activity (viability). In this study, the response of pathogenic Vibrio cholerae O1 and O139 to low pH-simulated environments of the human stomach was evaluated for their survival by culturability (plate count) and viability (flow cytometry—FC) assays. Bacteria were acid challenged with simulated gastric fluid (SGF) at pH 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 and 4.5 over a period of 180 min. Exposure to SGF up to 120 min increased acid tolerance of the Vibrios up to pH 3.5 with acid challenge occurring at pH 4.5. Bacteria were culturable from pH 2.5 to 4.5 up to 60 min SGF exposure. The stationary-phase cultures of Vibrio were able to survive SGF at all pHs in an ‘injured’ state with FC. This could possibly mean that the bacteria have entered the VBNC stage of survival. This is a worrying public health concern due to the fact that once favourable conditions arise (intestines), these Vibrios can change back to an infectious state and cause disease.