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Biotechnical Methods Section (BTS)

Elimination of mycoplasma from leukemia–lymphoma cell lines using antibiotics


Mycoplasmal contamination of cell culture systems continues to present major problems for basic research and for manufacturing of bioproducts. Previous work suggested that certain antibiotics have strong anti-mycoplasma properties and raised the prospect that the technically rather simple antibiotic treatment may be an appropriate means for mycoplasma eradication. We have developed and validated an effective strategy to eliminate mycoplasma from chronically infected cell cultures using antibiotics which have shown strong activity against these contaminants. Here, we describe our experience with the treatment of 123 consecutive mycoplasma-positive leukemia–lymphoma cell lines, comparing five different antibiotic regimens (in total 433 treatments). We optimized the antibiotic dose schedules and the duration of treatments. The various antibiotic treatments which were employed in parallel had a high efficacy, as 71% to 86% of the infected cultures were cleansed. Treatment failure may result from the resistance of the mycoplasmas to antibiotic therapy and the inability of the eukaryotic cells to survive the cytotoxic effects of the antibiotics. Resistance to mycoplasma eradication was observed in 3% to 20% of the cultures. Loss of the cell culture caused by cytotoxicity was seen in 3% to 11% of the treatments. With regard to the overall outcome, 96% of the cell lines were rendered mycoplasma-free with at least one of the antibiotic treatments and were permanently cured. In conclusion, antibiotic treatment represents the most practical and efficient option to cleanse mycoplasma-positive cell lines.

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Uphoff, C., Meyer, C. & Drexler, H. Elimination of mycoplasma from leukemia–lymphoma cell lines using antibiotics. Leukemia 16, 284–288 (2002).

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  • antibiotic elimination
  • cell lines
  • leukemia
  • lymphoma
  • mycoplasma

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