Ultrastructure of Microthrix parvicella from activated sludge

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Filaments of Microthrix parvicella grow very poorly in pure culture and have a characteristic uneven appearance containing large numbers of distinctive spherical swollen cells. This feature was only rarely seen with filaments of this organism in activated sludge biomass samples. Ultrastructurally, these spherical swollen cells do not appear to be bacterial endospores or cysts, but do show features that are consistent with them being some form of resting structure. Their production could be a response of M. parvicella to environmental stress, an explanation proposed because of their relative predominance in pure cultures of M. parvicella compared to their infrequent occurrence in filaments of this bacterium observed in activated sludge biomass.

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