Bacterial persister cell formation and dormancy

Thomas K. Wood, Stephen J. Knabel, Brian W. Kwan

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

430 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7116-7121
Number of pages6
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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