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Quantification of live and dead probiotic bacteria in lyophilised product by real-time PCR and by flow cytometry


The basic requirement for probiotic bacteria to be able to exert expected positive effects is to be alive; therefore, appropriate quantification methods are crucial. Due to disadvantages of conventional microbiological methods, the bacterial quantification based on the nucleic acid detection is increasingly used. The objective of this study was to evaluate the possibility to use propidium monoazide (PMA) in combination with real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method or LIVE/DEAD BacLight viability kit in combination with flow cytometry (FCM) for determination of probiotic bacteria in a lyophilised product containing Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-5 and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12. In addition, the viability of probiotic bacteria in lyophilised product during 3 months storage was investigated. In the product, the results of real-time PCR quantification of PMA-treated cells did not differ significantly from those of non-treated cells, which indicate that most of the bacterial cells retained the membrane integrity although they have lost the culturability. The results obtained by FCM analysis were comparable with those by PMA real-time PCR. In conclusion, the PMA real-time PCR and FCM determination of the viability of probiotic bacteria could complement the plate count method which considers only the culturable part of the population.

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This research was financially supported by Lek Pharmaceuticals d.d., Ljubljana, Slovenia. Research scientist Tanja Obermajer is greatly acknowledged for her assistance and knowledge of real-time PCR analysis. We also thank Mrs. Alenka Bezek for her technical assistance.

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Correspondence to Mateja Kramer.

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Kramer, M., Obermajer, N., Bogovič Matijašić, B. et al. Quantification of live and dead probiotic bacteria in lyophilised product by real-time PCR and by flow cytometry. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 84, 1137–1147 (2009).

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  • Quantification
  • Real-time PCR
  • Propidium monoazide
  • Probiotic bacteria
  • Flow cytometry