Comparative PCR analysis for detection of mycoplasma infections in continuous cell lines

In Vitro Cell Dev Biol Anim. 2002 Feb;38(2):79-85. doi: 10.1290/1071-2690(2002)038<0079:CPAFDO>2.0.CO;2.


Mycoplasma contamination of cell lines is one of the major problems in cell culturing. About 15-35% of all cell lines are infected with a limited number of mycoplasma species of predominantly human, swine, or bovine origin. We examined the mycoplasma contamination status in 495 cell cultures by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay, microbiological culture method, and deoxyribonucleic acid-ribonucleic acid (DNA-RNA) hybridization, and in 103 cell cultures by PCR and DNA-RNA hybridization, in order to determine the sensitivity and specificity of the PCR assay in routine cell culture. For those two cohorts, results for the three or two assays were concordant in 92 and 91% of the cases, respectively. The sensitivity (detection of true positives) of this PCR detection assay was 86%, and the specificity (detection of true negatives) was 93%, with positive and negative predictive values (probability of correct results) of 73 and 97%, respectively. PCR defined the mycoplasma status with 92% accuracy (detection of true positives and true negatives). The mycoplasma contaminants were speciated by analyzing the PCR amplification fragment using several restriction enzymes. Most of the cultures (47%) were infected with Mycoplasma fermentans, followed by M. hyorhinis (19%), M. orale (10%), M. arginini (9%), Acholeplasma laidlawii (6%), and M. hominis (3%). To sum up, PCR represents a sensitive, specific, accurate, inexpensive, and quick mycoplasma detection assay that is suitable for the routine screening of cell cultures.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cell Line / microbiology*
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mycoplasma / classification
  • Mycoplasma / isolation & purification*
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Species Specificity
  • Swine


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Bacterial