I am doing a research on effects of different concentrations of vitamin C on serial dilutions of E.coli k12. I am looking for literature that has already shown effects of vitamin C on E.coli, but there is a vast amount out there (26 thousand Scholar hits).

What might be the main effect of Vitamin C on E.coli? Is 1000mg vitamin C enough to have noticeable effects on the bacteria?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Can you please clarify what is 'noticeable effects' and give us some background of your research? $\endgroup$ – Maxim Kuleshov Oct 25 '17 at 17:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Aren't you doing the research to answer this exact question? $\endgroup$ – canadianer Oct 27 '17 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ Vitamin C is a reducing agent, and is often used as an artificial (1- and 2-electon) donor in enzymic reactions. (This of course has nothing to do with the fact that it is 'acidic'). Although the physiological role of Vitamin C has been argued about for years, it may well be that it acts as an electron donor. $\endgroup$ – user1136 Nov 8 '17 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think you should be doing research if you ask questions like "Is 1000mg vitamin C enough to have noticeable effects on the bacteria?". To how many bacteria in what volume under what conditions. I think it best to close this question. $\endgroup$ – David May 8 '18 at 12:22
  • $\begingroup$ @canadianer are you suggesting that you shouldn't do a literature review before running a series of experiments? $\endgroup$ – De Novo Jul 21 '18 at 16:52

I found a 'short communication' paper by Akira Murata et.al where they did In Vitro testing of Vitamin C on L. casei showing no inhibition of growth, and also tested on E.coli and B. subtilis and found that Vitamin C inhibited the growth. Also I believe Suzanne Humpries stated the same thing somewhere in this 1.5 hour long video, indicating she may posses more knowledge as to studies.

Ascorbic acid did not inhibit the growth of L. casei even at high concentrations, and rather stimulated the growth at certain concentrations (2~3 X 10- 2 M). This observation indicates that ascorbic acid can be used as an antiviral agent.

In E. coli and B. subtilis, unlike L. casei, a high concentration of ascorbic acid acted so as to lessen their growth rates (Fig. 3). Particularly, in B. subtilis W23, cell lysis was observed about 100 min after the contact with ascorbic acid and, moreover, when a drop of the lysate was placed on a plate seeded with B. subtilis 168 and incubated overnight at 30oC, there appeared a clear zone around the placed lysate. Since B. subtilis W23 is known to possess an inducible defective phage PBSZ able to kill B. subtilis 168,3 ' 41 the observed result maybe ascribed to the induction of the defective prophage from B. subtilis W23 by action of ascorbic acid. Lwoff and Siminovitch51 reported once that the lysogenic phage in B. megaterium was induced by treatment with ascorbic acid.


You have @arberg's answer showing a report of an inhibitory effect of vitamin C on E. coli. Here's a PLoS One paper, in different conditions. It shows vitamin C rescues cultures that had no growth the previous night.

enter image description here

As the comments suggested, expect to see different results in different conditions.

Literature reviews before an experiment are important. When you're new to an area they are VERY HARD. Do them anyway. Give yourself a set amount of time, sit down at your computer, and start chugging away. Then do it again. And again. And again.

If you have a large number of possible articles, try narrowing your search. I often do this by tweaking my search terms or by limiting my search to a particular subset of journals that are more likely to give me what I'm looking for. Set up a hierarchy for how you read. Start by scanning the abstracts. If it looks helpful, pull the article and look at the figures. Note the article, your conclusion, and the authors' conclusions in a file somewhere that you can find later. If there is something interesting or useful in the introduction, follow the references.

Again, this is VERY HARD, but VERY IMPORTANT. Don't skimp on this step by just asking people.


Maybe you have to think about vitamin C from another point of view. You start from the postulate that Vitamin C could destroy E. Coli. Maybe the action of vitamin C, rather then destroying E.coli is destroying the endotoxins generated by the bacteria, leaving the body immunity healthy and boosting the phagocytes that can therefore destroy E. Coli way more easily. About the dosis of vitamin C to use, I would just use it to bowel tolerance. Body will take what is needed and just flush what's in excess. testing Lyposomal vitamin C would maybe also a good idea. Many years ago , I had a monstrous and painful "tourista". It usually take a few days to cure. Well, I felt so bad that I took 2-3gr of vitamin C orally and, to my great surprise (and relief), Tourista symptoms were gone within 2 hours and I felt good.


Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • $\begingroup$ Could you add sources to your answer to allow others to background read on your material? $\endgroup$ – AliceD May 21 '18 at 8:46

It’s proven quite hard to find research on the effects of vitamin C on gram-negative bacteria.


This paper suggests that vitamin C (sometimes also referred to as ascorbic acid) can help inhibit the growth of E. coli when in the presence of mildly acidified urine with added nitrite. Keep in mind that this paper is quite old, and inside the first few paragraphs it states:

despite numerous studies the mechanism of any antibacterial action of vitamin C still remains unclear.

It later states

we have recently shown that large amounts of NO gas are released from nitrite-containing urine after mild acidification and this release is greatly potentiated in the presence of ascorbic acid.

So it seems this first paper doesn’t offer us much in terms of toxic effects of vitamin C on bacteria in isolation.


I found another paper that suggests that vitamin C can kill gram-negative bacteria, but again not in isolation, but in combination with other agents as well.

Perhaps your research is among the first to offer any insight on the effects of vitamin C on E. coli. I’ll be interested to know if anyone else finds a publication on this specific topic (I only searched for about 30 mins on the subject).


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.