is the major cause of human gastroenteritis worldwide. Under stress conditions, C. jejuni
can enter a viable but non-culturable (VBNC) state. We found that the C. jejuni
was able to enter a VBNC state by prolonged incubation at 4°C. The standard isolation methods using pre-enrichment steps in Bolton broth or Preston broth could not detect the VBNC cells in spiked chicken meat. The transcription levels of virulence-associated genes (flaA, flaB, cadF, ciaB, cdtA, cdtB
) were expressed in VBNC cells but in low levels. The VBNC cells retained the ability to invade Caco-2 human intestinal epithelial cells in vitro
. In most cases, VBNC cells failed to resuscitate in Caco-2 cells, but in some experiments, they formed colonies after co-incubation with host cells. Collectively, C. jejuni
enters into a VBNC state at 4°C and the VBNC C. jejuni
remains virulent which may possibly lead to disease in humans. C. jejuni
in VBNC state is a potential concern for food safety.