Enumeration of viable E. coli in rivers and wastewaters by fluorescent in situ hybridization

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsT. Armisen, G, Servais, P
JournalJournal of Microbiological Methods
Start Page269
Date Published08/2004
Mots-clésdirect viable count, E. coli, fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH), viable non-culturable bacteria (VBNC)
A combination of direct viable count (DVC) and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) procedures was used to enumerate viable Escherichia coli in river waters and wastewaters. A probe specific for the 16S rRNA of E. coli labeled with the CY3 dye was used; enumeration of hybridized cells was performed by epifluorescence microscopy. Data showed that the method was able to accurately enumerate a minimum of 3000 viable E. coli among a large number of non-fecal bacteria. When applied to river water and wastewater samples, the DVC-FISH method gave systematically higher E. coli counts than a reference culture-based method (miniaturized MPN method). The ratio between both counts (DVC-FISH/MPN) increased with decreasing abundance of culturable E. coli indicating that the proportion of viable but non-culturable (VBNC) E. coli (detectable by the DVC-FISH procedure and not by a culture-based method) was higher in low contaminated environments. We hypothesized that the more stressing conditions, i.e. nutritional stress and sunlight effect, met in low contaminated environments were responsible for the larger fraction of VBNC E. coli. A survival experiment, in which sterile mineral water was inoculated with a pure E. coli strain and incubated, confirmed that stressing conditions induced the apparition of non-culturable E. coli detectable by the DVC-FISH procedure. The analysis of the E. coli concentration along a Seine river longitudinal profile downstream a large input of fecal bacteria by a WWTP outfall showed an increasing fraction of VBNC E. coli with increasing residence time of the E. coli in the river after release. These data suggest that the DVC-FISH method is useful tool to analyze the dynamics of fecal bacteria in river water.