Sources of contamination in the lab are equally wide ranging. In some cases, contaminants are already present in cells when they are brought into the lab; this is most often the case with hard-to-detect contaminants such as eukaryotic cells and mycoplasma. Cell culture media and other solutions are another source – in particular, when prepared and sterilized in-house, used by multiple people, or used for extended periods of time. Consumables could potentially harbor contaminants, highlighting the importance of using only sterile consumables in cell culture. And finally, lapses in aseptic technique can contribute.
In the fight against contamination, researchers place a lot of emphasis on prevention, as “prevention is better than cure”. Many of these preventative measures are now standard operating practice in cell culture labs, for example autoclave sterilization, use of pre-made and pre-sterilized culture media, aseptic technique training, regular mycoplasma testing, and the addition of antibiotics in cell media. The latter however, is becoming less prevalent in modern cell culture as scientists increasingly recognize the effect that antibiotics have on cell growth and behavior – leading them to switch to antibiotic-free media.
However, even in labs with the most stringent preventative measures, there is still a small risk of contamination affecting cell culture. If this happens, it is important to act quickly and to act in accordance with the protocols that are in place for these situations.
Although these protocols may vary considerably between labs, specific actions that lab users should take are discussed in our White Paper “How to remove contamination in a cell culture lab”:
- Cleaning up
- Determining the extent of contamination
- Finding the cause
- Moving forward
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for cell culture professionals to download the complete White Paper