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Keywords:

  • Bacillus spores;
  • flow cytometry;
  • fluorescence microscopy;
  • viability assays

Abstract

Aim:  To validate three fluorescence viability assays designed primarily for vegetative cells on pure Bacillus endospores.

Methods and Results:  Purified fresh and gamma-irradiated Bacillus endospores (Bacillus cereus, B. coagulans and two strains of B. subtilis) were used. The viability assays were: 5-cyano-2,3-diotolyl tetrazolium chloride (CTC) to test respiratory activity and early germination, DiBAC4(3) and Live/Dead BacLight to measure membrane energization and permeabilization, respectively. Gamma irradiation treatment completely eliminated spore culturability and was used as negative control. The untreated spores showed respiratory activity after 1 h of incubation and this was characteristic of almost 100% of spores after 24 h. The membrane potential assessment gave no answer about spore viability. A lower proportion of untreated spores had permeabilized membrane compared with gamma-irradiated spores using Live/Dead BacLight (P < 0·02).

Conclusion:  It is possible to use CTC and Live/Dead BacLight to rapidly test endospore viability and evaluate the proportion of spores in a preparation that could not be recovered with plate count.

Significance and Impact of the Study:  This study shows that fluorescence tests could be applied to assess viability in potentially pathogenic Bacillus spore preparations within 1 h.