Viable but nonculturable uropathogenic bacteria are present in the mouse urinary tract following urinary tract infection and antibiotic therapy
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Involvement of the viable but nonculturable (VBNC) condition in recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) was investigated. VBNC bacteria are those which are alive but do not give rise to visible growth under nonselective growth conditions. Urine, bladder, and kidney samples collected over a 2-month period from BALB/c mice inoculated with the uropathogenic Escherichia coli strain J96 were examined to determine the level of culturable and viable bacteria. Urine from uninoculated mice was found to contain more viable than culturable bacteria. Inoculated mice had a transient increase in the level of culturable forms of the uropathogen in their urine, followed by a decrease to background levels; they also had multiple log higher levels of viable cells than culturable cells. The culturable pathogenic bacteria in mice that were inoculated and received antibiotic treatment dropped to undetectable levels within 1 week. At 2 out of 12 subsequent time points spanning an additional 65 days, culturable forms of the inoculated pathogenic bacteria were recovered. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis confirmed that DNA from the inoculated bacteria was present in a sample that yielded no culturable bacteria. These data indicate that the inoculated uropathogenic E. coli was not eliminated by antibiotic therapy, and suggest that these bacteria may escape detection by current standard culturability assays because they are VBNC.
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