The viable but non-culturable (VBNC) forms of two environmental strains of Vibrio alginolyticus 1 and Vibrio parahaemolyticus 66 and one strain of V. parahaemolyticus ATCC 43996 showing virulence characteristics (hemolysin production, adhesive and/or cytotoxic ability, in vivo enteropathogenicity) were obtained by culturing bacteria in a microcosm consisting of artificial sea water (ASW) and incubating at 5 degrees C with shaking. Every 2 days, culturability of the cells in the microcosm was monitored by spread plates on BHI agar and total count and the percentage of viable cells were determined by double staining with DAPI and CTC. When cell growth was not detectable (<0.1 CFU/ml), the population was considered non-culturable and, then, the VBNC forms were resuscitated in a murine model. For each strain, eight male Balb/C mice were intragastrically inoculated with 0.1 ml of concentrated ASW bacterial culture. Two mice from each group were sacrificed at 2, 4, 8, and 12 days after challenge for autopsy and re-isolation of the microorganisms from the intestinal tissue cultures. Isolation was obtained in 25% of the animals challenged with the VBNC V. alginolyticus strain, in 37.5% of those challenged with the VBNC V. parahaemolyticus strain of environmental origin and in 50% of the animals infected with VBNC V. parahaemolyticus ATCC 43996. The strains thus isolated were again subjected to biological assays to determine the retention of pathogenicity. The virulence characteristics that seemed to disappear after resuscitation in the mouse were subsequently reactivated by means of two consecutive passages of the strains in the rat ileal loop model. The results obtained indicate that VBNC forms of the strains examined can be resuscitated and retain their virulence properties.