Bacterial persister cell formation and dormancy

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Dec;79(23):7116-21. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02636-13. Epub 2013 Sep 13.


Bacterial cells may escape the effects of antibiotics without undergoing genetic change; these cells are known as persisters. Unlike resistant cells that grow in the presence of antibiotics, persister cells do not grow in the presence of antibiotics. These persister cells are a small fraction of exponentially growing cells (due to carryover from the inoculum) but become a significant fraction in the stationary phase and in biofilms (up to 1%). Critically, persister cells may be a major cause of chronic infections. The mechanism of persister cell formation is not well understood, and even the metabolic state of these cells is debated. Here, we review studies relevant to the formation of persister cells and their metabolic state and conclude that the best model for persister cells is still dormancy, with the latest mechanistic studies shedding light on how cells reach this dormant state.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Microbial Viability / drug effects


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents