Automated, High-Throughput Detection of Bacterial Adherence to Host Cells

J Vis Exp. 2021 Sep 17;(175). doi: 10.3791/62764.


Identification of emerging bacterial pathogens is critical for human health and security. Bacterial adherence to host cells is an essential step in bacterial infections and constitutes a hallmark of potential threat. Therefore, examining the adherence of bacteria to host cells can be used as a component of bacterial threat assessment. A standard method for enumerating bacterial adherence to host cells is to co-incubate bacteria with host cells, harvest the adherent bacteria, plate the harvested cells on solid media, and then count the resultant colony forming units (CFU). Alternatively, bacterial adherence to host cells can be evaluated using immunofluorescence microscopy-based approaches. However, conventional strategies for implementing these approaches are time-consuming and inefficient. Here, a recently developed automated fluorescence microscopy-based imaging method is described. When combined with high-throughput image processing and statistical analysis, the method enables rapid quantification of bacteria that adhere to host cells. Two bacterial species, Gram-negative Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Gram-positive Listeria monocytogenes and corresponding negative controls, were tested to demonstrate the protocol. The results show that this approach rapidly and accurately enumerates adherent bacteria and significantly reduces experimental workloads and timelines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Adhesion*
  • Humans