Mycoplasma Contamination

Mycoplasma Contamination

Macroscopic detection

Mycoplasma-positive cell cultures show no visible changes to the media.

Microscopic detection

Mycoplasma are only about 0.1 - 0.3 µm in diameter, therefore detection via brightfield microscopy is not possible. This lack of visible signs of infection increases the risk of mycoplasma-positive cells remaining unnoticed.

Experiments carried out with mycoplasma-infected cells may yield false, misleading and non-reproducible results. It is therefore crucial to test all cultures for mycoplasma on a regular basis. One simple method employs DNA staining; however, this method presents certain drawbacks. This table provides an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of different mycoplasma detection methods.

Mycoplasma-infected cells - Cell Handling Eppendorf
DAPI staining of Mycoplasma-infected cells
Mycoplasma attached to membranes - Cell Handling Eppendorf
Scanning electron micrograph of mycoplasma attached to the membranes of human fibroblasts. (David M Phillips/ Science Source/ Getty Images)

The method you will select may depend on one or more of the following:
- Access to the required equipment (for example thermocycler,
  fluorescence microscope, etc.).
- How many samples need to be tested at once.
- How urgently you need the results (the longer the testing
  procedure the higher the risk of spreading the contamination).