In Vitro Studies of Persister Cells



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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev


Many bacterial pathogens can permanently colonize their host and establish either chronic or recurrent infections that the immune system and antimicrobial therapies fail to eradicate. Antibiotic persisters (persister cells) are believed to be among the factors that make these infections challenging. Persisters are subpopulations of bacteria which survive treatment with bactericidal antibiotics in otherwise antibiotic-sensitive cultures and were extensively studied in a hope to discover the mechanisms that cause treatment failures in chronically infected patients; however, most of these studies were conducted in the test tube. Research into antibiotic persistence has uncovered large intrapopulation heterogeneity of bacterial growth and regrowth but has not identified essential, dedicated molecular mechanisms of antibiotic persistence. Diverse factors and stresses that inhibit bacterial growth reduce killing of the bulk population and may also increase the persister subpopulation, implying that an array of mechanisms are present. Hopefully, further studies under conditions that simulate the key aspects of persistent infections will lead to identifying target mechanisms for effective therapeutic solutions.