Virus susceptibility of Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells and detection of viral contaminations by adventitious agent testing

Biotechnol Bioeng. 2010 Jul 1;106(4):598-607. doi: 10.1002/bit.22723.


Biopharmaceuticals are of increasing importance in the treatment of a variety of diseases. A remaining concern associated with their production is the potential introduction of adventitious agents into their manufacturing process, which may compromise the pathogen safety of a product and potentially cause stock-out situations for important medical supplies. To ensure the safety of biological therapeutics, regulatory guidance requires adventitious agent testing (AAT) of the bulk harvest. AAT is a deliberately promiscuous assay procedure which has been developed to indicate, ideally, the presence of any viral contaminant. One of the most important cell lines used in the production of biopharmaceuticals is Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells and while viral infections of CHO cells have occurred, a systematic screen of their virus susceptibility has never been published. We investigated the susceptibility of CHO cells to infection by 14 different viruses, including members of 12 families and representatives or the very species that were implicated in previously reported production cell infections. Based on our results, four different infection outcomes were distinguished, based on the possible combinations of the two factors (i) the induction, or not, of a cytopathic effect and (ii) the ability, or not, to replicate in CHO cells. Our results demonstrate that the current AAT is effective for the detection of viruses which are able to replicate in CHO cells. Due to the restricted virus susceptibility of CHO cells and the routine AAT of bulk harvests, our results provide re-assurance for the very high safety margins of CHO cell-derived biopharmaceuticals.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Drug Contamination / prevention & control
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical / methods
  • Viruses / growth & development*
  • Viruses / isolation & purification*