Survival strategies of Escherichia coli and Vibrio spp.: contribution of the viable but nonculturable phenotype to their stress-resistance and persistence in adverse environments



In their natural ecosystems, bacteria are continuously exposed to changing environmental factors including physicochemical parameters (e.g. temperature, pH, etc.), availability of nutrients as well as interaction(s) with other organisms. To increase their tolerance and survival under adverse conditions, bacteria trigger a number of adaptation mechanisms. One of the well-known adaptation responses of the non-spore-forming bacteria is the acquisition of the viable but non-culturable (VBNC) state. This phenotype is induced by different stress factors (e.g. low temperature) and is characterized by the temporal loss of culturability, which can potentially be restored. Moreover, this response can be combined with the bust and boom strategy, which implies the death of the main population of the stressed cells (or their entry into the VBNC state) upon stress, thus enabling the remaining cells (i.e. residual culturable population) to subsist at the expense of the dead or/and VBNC cells. In this review, we discuss the characteristics of the VBNC state, its biological significance and contribution to bacterial survival.


Survival strategy VBNC Bust and boom strategy Resuscitation 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Immunology, Microbiology and ParasitologyUniversity of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)LeioaSpain
  2. 2.IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for ScienceBilbaoSpain

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