Cytometric methods for measuring bacteria in water: advantages, pitfalls and applications

Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Frederik A Hammes, Thomas Egli


Rapid detection of microbial cells is a challenge in microbiology, particularly when complex indigenous communities or subpopulations varying in viability, activity and physiological state are investigated. Flow cytometry (FCM) has developed during the last 30 years into a multidisciplinary technique for analysing bacteria. When used correctly, FCM can provide a broad range of information at the single-cell level, including (but not limited to) total counts, size measurements, nucleic acid content, cell viability and activity, and detection of specific bacterial groups or species. The main advantage of FCM is that it is fast and easy to perform. It is a robust technique, which is adaptable to different types of samples and methods, and has much potential for automation. Hence, numerous FCM applications have emerged in industrial biotechnology, food and pharmaceutical quality control, routine monitoring of drinking water and wastewater systems, and microbial ecological research in soils and natural aquatic habitats. This review focuses on the information that can be gained from the analysis of bacteria in water, highlighting some of the main advantages, pitfalls and applications.


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