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Distinguishing between metabolically active and dormant bacteria on paper

Hice, StephanieA., Santoscoy, MiguelC., Soupir, MichelleL., Cademartiri, Rebecca
Applied microbiology and biotechnology 2018 v.102 no.1 pp. 367-375
Escherichia coli, Salmonella Typhimurium, antibiotic resistance, bacteria, bacteriophages, color, colorimetry, fermentation, health services, lakes, oxidoreductases, pathogens, phosphates, sulfates, tetrazolium, virulence
Switching between metabolically active and dormant states provides bacteria with protection from environmental stresses and allows rapid growth under favorable conditions. This rapid growth can be detrimental to the environment, e.g., pathogens in recreational lakes, or to industrial processes, e.g., fermentation, making it useful to quickly determine when the ratio of dormant to metabolically active bacteria changes. While a rapid increase in metabolically active bacteria can cause complications, a high number of dormant bacteria can also be problematic, since they can be more virulent and antibiotic-resistant. To determine the metabolic state of Escherichia coli and Salmonella Typhimurium, we developed two paper-based colorimetric assays. The color changes were based on oxidoreductases reducing tetrazolium salts to formazans, and alkaline phosphatases cleaving phosphates from nitrophenyl phosphate salt. Specifically, we added iodophenyl-nitrophenyl-phenyl tetrazolium salt (INT) and methylphenazinium methyl sulfate to metabolically active bacteria on paper and INT and para-nitrophenyl phosphate salt to dormant bacteria on paper. The color changed in less than 60 min and was generally visible at 10³ CFU and quantifiable at 10⁶ CFU. The color changes occurred in both bacteria, since oxidoreductases and alkaline phosphatases are common bacterial enzymes. On one hand, this feature makes the assays suitable to a wide range of applications, on the other, it requires specific capture, if only one type of bacterium is of interest. We captured Salmonella or E. coli with immobilized P22 or T4 bacteriophages on the paper, before detecting them at levels of 10² or 10⁴ CFU, respectively. Determining the ratio of the metabolic state of bacteria or a specific bacterium at low cost and in a short time, makes this methodology useful in environmental, industrial and health care settings.