Approaches for the successful isolation and cell culture of American Rickettsia species

J Vector Borne Dis. 2018 Oct-Dec;55(4):258-264. doi: 10.4103/0972-9062.256560.


Rickettsia are intracellular vector-borne bacteria, which are the etiologic agent of severe infections that could inflict death to their host. The intracellular behaviour of Rickettsia makes the study of its genetics, proteomics and cellular processes very difficult. Hence, isolation remains an important experimental technique that permits the obtention of important yields of bacteria, useful for a broad range of experiments. Isolation of Rickettsia using passages in animals or embryonated eggs has been described for long time; however, it was until the 1990s that faster and more feasible approaches for cell culture were developed. Current isolation approaches are mainly based on shell vial culture, that varies according to the media, atmosphere or temperature conditions. These variations have allowed the establishment of isolates from different pathogenic and non-pathogenic Rickettsia species, using arthropod, animal or human samples. Purification method of bacteria has also witnessed changes alongside the quantification of its load in the resulting isolates, from the laborious and time consuming plaque assays, to the routinary use of real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), which is faster and more accurate. This review discusses various approaches that have been used for the isolation and purification of different Rickettsia species along with the mention of some successful examples. It indicated that a successful strategy for the isolation of Rickettsia requires a careful selection of media, cell lines and culture conditions which now are not as time consuming as used to be.

Keywords: Cell culture; Rickettsia; clinical samples; isolation; rickettsiosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteriological Techniques*
  • Cell Line
  • Culture Media
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rickettsia / growth & development*
  • Rickettsia / isolation & purification*
  • Ticks / microbiology


  • Culture Media