Understanding And Managing Cell Culture Contamination
No cell culture problem is as universal as that of culture loss due to contamination. All cell culture laboratories and cell culture workers have experienced it. Culture contaminants may be biological or chemical, seen or unseen, destructive or seemingly benign, but in all cases they adversely affect both the use of your cell cultures and the quality of your research. Contamination problems can be divided into three classes:
- Minor annoyances — when up to several plates or flasks are occasionally lost to contamination;
- Serious problems — when contamination frequency increases or entire experiments or cell cultures are lost;
- Major catastrophes — contaminants are discovered that call into doubt the validity of your past or current work.
The most obvious consequence of cell culture contamination is the loss of your time, money (for cells, culture vessels, media and sera) and effort spent developing cultures and setting up experiments. However, the less obvious consequences are often more serious. First there are the adverse effects on cultures suffering from undetected chemical or biological contaminants. These hidden (cryptic) contaminants can achieve high densities altering the growth and characteristics of the cultures. Worse yet are the potentially inaccurate or erroneous results obtained by unknowingly working with these cryptically contaminated cultures.