This brief historical development of the biology of the mycoplasmas begins with their discovery in 1898 to the present. Mycoplasmas are the smallest free-living microorganisms and for years were thought to be viruses because they passed through the usual bacterial filters. They lack a cell wall, are widespread in nature and many are animal, plant and human pathogens. The extensive use of cell cultures in the last fifty years and their frequent contamination with mycoplasmas, together with their possession of the smallest genome of any free-living organism, has drawn enormous attention to these organisms and has revealed considerably more about their biology.
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