Crystal Violet Staining Alone Is Not Adequate to Assess Synergism or Antagonism in Multi-Species Biofilms of Bacteria Associated With Bacterial Vaginosis

Academic Article


  • Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) involves the presence of a multi-species biofilm adhered to vaginal epithelial cells, but its in-depth study has been limited due to the complexity of the bacterial community, which makes the design of in vitro models challenging. Perhaps the most common experimental technique to quantify biofilms is the crystal violet (CV) staining method. Despite its widespread utilization, the CV method is not without flaws. While biofilm CV quantification within the same strain in different conditions is normally accepted, assessing multi-species biofilms formation by CV staining might provide significant bias. For BV research, determining possible synergism or antagonism between species is a fundamental step for assessing the roles of individual species in BV development. Herein, we provide our perspective on how CV fails to properly quantify an in vitro triple-species biofilm composed of Gardnerella vaginalis, Fannyhessea (Atopobium) vaginae, and Prevotella bivia, three common BV-associated bacteria thought to play key roles in incident BV pathogenesis. We compared the CV method with total colony forming units (CFU) and fluorescence microscopy cell count methods. Not surprisingly, when comparing single-species biofilms, the relationship between biofilm biomass, total number of cells, and total cultivable cells was very different between each tested method, and also varied with the time of incubation. Thus, despite its wide utilization for single-species biofilm quantification, the CV method should not be considered for accurate quantification of multi-species biofilms in BV pathogenesis research.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Castro J; Lima Â; Sousa LGV; Rosca AS; Muzny CA; Cerca N
  • Volume

  • 11