Phenotypic and genotypic characteristics of small colony variants and their role in chronic infection

Benjamin E. Johns, Kevin J. Purdy, Nicholas P. Tucker, Sarah E. Maddocks

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37 Citations (Scopus)
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Small colony variant (SCV) bacteria arise spontaneously within apparently homogeneous microbial populations, largely in response to environmental stresses, such as antimicrobial treatment. They display unique phenotypic characteristics conferred in part by heritable genetic changes. Characteristically slow growing, SCVs comprise a minor proportion of the population from which they arise but persist by virtue of their inherent resilience and host adaptability. Consequently, SCVs are problematic in chronic infection, where antimicrobial treatment is administered during the acute phase of infection but fails to eradicate SCVs, which remain within the host causing recurrent or chronic infection. This review discusses some of the phenotypic and genotypic changes that enable SCVs to successfully proliferate within the host environment as potential pathogens and strategies that could ameliorate the resolution of infection where SCVs are present.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-23
Number of pages9
JournalMicrobiology Insights
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2015


  • small colony variant bacteria
  • bacteria
  • microbial populations
  • infection

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