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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1996 January; 62(1): 115–120.
PMCID: PMC167780

Potential virulence of viable but nonculturable Shigella dysenteriae type 1.


We examined a virulent strain of Shigella dysenteriae type 1 after induction into the viable but nonculturable (VBNC) state for its ability to (i) maintain the Shiga toxin (stx) gene; (ii) maintain biologically active Shiga toxin (ShT); and (iii) adhere to intestinal epithelial cells (Henle 407 cell line). PCR was used to amplify the stx gene from VBNC cells of S. dysenteriae type 1, thereby establishing its presence even when cells are in the VBNC state. VBNC S. dysenteriae type 1 ShT was monitored by the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with mouse monoclonal antibodies against the B subunit of ShT and affinity-purified rabbit polyclonal antibodies against ShT. We used the Henle 407 cell line to study the adhesive property of VBNC S. dysenteriae type 1 cells in a series of tissue culture experiments. Results showed that VBNC S. dysenteriae type 1 not only maintained the stx gene and biologically active ShT but also remained capable of adhering to Henle 407 cells. However, S. dysenteriae type 1 cells lost the ability to invade Henle 407 cells after entering the VBNC state. From results of the study, we conclude that VBNC cells of S. dysenteriae type 1 retain several virulence factors and remain potentially virulent, posing a public health problem.

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