Conventional culture for water quality assessment: Is there a future?

David P. Sartory, John Watkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (SciVal)


Conventional culture for the detection, enumeration and identification of micro-organisms has been the traditional tool of the microbiologist. It is, however, time-consuming and labour-intensive and confirmed results often require several days of analysis. Culture may not grow the organisms being sought and for enumeration may only detect a small proportion of the total population. However, it does have the advantage of being simple to use and relatively inexpensive. It is also a direct means of assessing cell viability. Novel fluorogenic dyes and fluorgenic and chromogenic substrates have overcome some of these problems by providing a means of rapid and specific detection and enumeration whilst removing the need for subculture and confirmation tests. Immunological tests such as ELISA have significantly reduced analysis time by providing specific target organism detection. Molecular techniques have removed the need for culture. Improvements in sensitivity, and removal of the inhibitory nature of sample matrices, have allowed analysts to detect low levels of micro-organisms but the questions of viability and comparability with cultural techniques still remain. Are we about to see a change of culture in water quality assessment, or can cultural techniques be developed that reduce analysis time to a few hours and can rapid methods be used for detecting the presence and viability of organisms?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225S-233S
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


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