Morphologic conversion ofHelicobacter pylori from bacillary to coccoid form

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Abstract

The morphologic conversion ofHelicobacter pylori from bacillary to coccoid form was studied by microscopy, viable count on agar plates, and bioluminescence assay of bacterial ATP. When morphologic conversion from bacillary to coccoid form was detected by microscopy, the viable counts and the bacterial ATP decreased. No viable count was found after nine days of incubation, but bacterial ATP was still present. In these cultures in which only the coccoid form ofHelicobacter pylori was present, there was no accumulation of extracellular ATP, indicating no leaky cells. During the transition phase from the bacillary to the coccoid form ofHelicobacter pylori, the addition of fresh medium increased the intracellular ATP 26-fold. The coccoid form ofHelicobacter pylori had a 1000-fold lower ATP level per cell compared to the bacillary form, which indicates a decreased metabolic activity in the coccoid form. Addition of fresh medium to the coccoid cultures from days 9 and 10 increased the ATP level twofold. However, no conversion from coccoid to bacillary form was found in these cultures during prolonged incubation in fresh broth for four weeks. Such conversion needs to be demonstrated before it is proven that the coccoid form ofHelicobacter pylori is responsible for transmission and relapse of infection.