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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Isothermal microcalorimetry for thermal viable count of microorganisms in pure cultures and stabilized formulations

Nykyri, Johanna; Herrmann, Anke M.; Hakansson, Sebastian


BackgroundQuantification of viable microorganisms is an important step in microbiological research as well as in microbial product formulation to develop biological control products or probiotics. Often, the efficiency of the resulting product is dependent on the microbial cell density and their viability, which may decrease over time. Commonly, the number of viable cells is determined by serial dilution and plating techniques or flow cytometry. In 2017, we developed a mathematical model for isothermal microcalorimetry (IMC) data analysis and showed that the new method allows for a more rapid quantification of viable fresh and freeze-dried anaerobic Lactobacillus reuteri cells than traditional viable count methods.ResultsThis study developed the new method further by applying it to well-known aerophilic plant-beneficial microbial species (Pseudomonas brassicacearum, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens subsp. plantarum and Clonostachys rosea) used in biological control products. We utilized IMC to quantify viable cells in microbial pure cultures as well as when coated onto wheat seeds. The results from this study confirmed that thermal viable count methods are more rapid and sensitive than traditional viable count techniques. Most interestingly, a thermal viable count method was able to quantify microbes coated on seeds despite the presence of the natural microbiota of the seeds. Our results also showed that, in contrast to plating techniques for which clustered cells skew the results, IMC does not require single cells for accurate viable counts.ConclusionsThermal viable count methods are novel methods for the rapid quantification of divergent bacterial and fungal species and enhance the speed, sensitivity, and accuracy of routine viable counts of pure cultures and controlled microbiomes such as plant seed coatings.


Viable count; Isothermal microcalorimetry; Aerophilic; Microbial products; Plant seed coating; Biological control; Plant protection

Published in

Journal of Applied Toxicology
2019, Volume: 19, article number: 65
Publisher: BMC