Enumerating Viruses by Using Fluorescence and the Nature of the Nonviral Background Fraction
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Bulk fluorescence measurements could be a faster and cheaper way of enumerating viruses than epifluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry, or transmission electron microscopy (TEM). However, since viruses are not imaged, the background fluorescence compromises the signal, and we know little about its nature. In this paper the size ranges of nucleotides that fluoresce in the presence of SYBR gold were determined for wastewater and a range of freshwater samples using a differential filtration method. Fluorescence excitation-emission matrices (FEEMs) showed that >70% of the SYBR fluorescence was in the <10-nm size fraction (background) and was not associated with intact viruses. This was confirmed using TEM. The use of FEEMs to develop a fluorescence-based method for counting viruses is an approach that is fundamentally different from the epifluorescence microscopy technique used for enumerating viruses. This high fluorescence background is currently overlooked, yet it has had a most pervasive influence on the development of a simple fluorescence-based method for quantifying viral abundance in water.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Copyright 2012 American Society for Microbiology. The attached file is reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.