An inexpensive, accurate, and precise wet-mount method for enumerating aquatic viruses

Brady R. Cunningham, Jennifer R. Brum, Sarah M. Schwenck, Matthew B. Sullivan, Seth G. John

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Viruses affect biogeochemical cycling, microbial mortality, gene flow, and metabolic functions in diverse environments through infection and lysis of microorganisms. Fundamental to quantitatively investigating these roles is the determination of viral abundance in both field and laboratory samples. One current, widely used method to accomplish this with aquatic samples is the "filter mount" method, in which samples are filtered onto costly 0.02-μm-pore-size ceramic filters for enumeration of viruses by epifluorescence microscopy. Here we describe a cost-effective (ca. 500-fold-lower materials cost) alternative virus enumeration method in which fluorescently stained samples are wet mounted directly onto slides, after optional chemical flocculation of viruses in samples with viral concentrations of <5 × 107 viruses ml-1. The concentration of viruses in the sample is then determined from the ratio of viruses to a known concentration of added microsphere beads via epifluorescence microscopy. Virus concentrations obtained by using this wet-mount method, with and without chemical flocculation, were significantly correlated with, and had precision equivalent to, those obtained by the filter mount method across concentrations ranging from 2.17 × 106 to 1.37 × 108 viruses ml-1 when tested by using cultivated viral isolates and natural samples from marine and freshwater environments. In summary, the wet-mount method is significantly less expensive than the filter mount method and is appropriate for rapid, precise, and accurate enumeration of aquatic viruses over a wide range of viral concentrations (>1 × 106 viruses ml-1) encountered in field and laboratory samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2995-3000
Number of pages6
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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