With the new counting method, developers of probiotic dairy products can also investigate how active the added bacteria are when they enter the gastrointestinal tract.
The microbiologist from Wageningen University stained the bacteria with two fluorescent substances. One substance ensures that the bacteria emit a green colour if they are active. The substance itself is not fluorescent but is converted by bacterial enzymes into a green fluorescent dye. The second substance stains bacteria with a damaged membrane. This substance emits red but only when it is bound to the bacterias DNA.
The method distinguishes viable from non-viable types of bacteria. It also detects semi-viable bacteria as, although these can no longer divide, they are still active and therefore emit green. Only non-viable bacteria emit red. Christine Bunthof used a flow cytometer to count the bacteria. In this device, the bacteria are transported one by one past a laser which lights up the bacteria. A detector counts the number of red and green bacteria.
Since time immemorial the diary industry has always counted bacteria which can still divide. When cultured on a nutrient medium, these bacteria form visible colonies. However, this old method fails to detect semi-viable bacteria, as active bacteria which do not multiply remain invisible. Yet this intermediate group constitute a considerable proportion of the active bacteria in ripening cheese.
This counting method is not only useful for following the ripening of cheese and yoghurt. It is also important for the development of probiotic dairy prod
Contact: Michel Philippens
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research