Validation of Microbiological Testing of Cellular Medicinal Products Containing Antibiotics

Transfus Med Hemother. 2020 Apr;47(2):144-151. doi: 10.1159/000501284. Epub 2019 Jul 2.


Background: The risk of microbial contamination of cellular products can be reduced when cultured in the presence of antibiotics. This however, may impact the sensitivity of microbiological tests. Given that the addition of antibiotics to cell/tissue products does not guarantee sterility but may just reduce the proliferation rate of microorganisms, microbiological testing of medicinal products remains obligatory. Thus, an appropriate method to test for microbial contamination of antibiotic-containing products has to be validated.

Objectives: In the context of microbiological testing of a cellular advance therapy medicinal product, the method was validated and approved by German competent authorities for four different matrices with three matrices containing antibiotics. The paper shall provide help for establishing test methods for other investigational medicinal products which contain antibiotics.

Methods: Matrices were spiked individually with Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Streptococcus pyogenes, Escherichia coli, Clostridium sporogenes, Propionibacterium acnes, Candida albicans, and Aspergillus brasiliensis. Samples were pretreated with penicillinase for 1 h before inoculation and incubation in BacT/ALERT iFA Plus and iFN Plus culture bottles using 3D BacT/ALERT automates. Microorganisms within positive BacT/ALERT bottles were specified. The procedure was performed in two different laboratories to prove robustness of test.

Results: All nine tested microorganisms were detected within 14 days of incubation in accordance with requirements of the European Pharmacopoiea in terms of sensitivity, specificity and robustness of the test. Penicillin and streptomycin did not have any influence on specifications defined within the investigational medicinal product dossier.

Conclusions: Culturing cellular products in the presence of antibiotics can serve as an effective method to reduce contamination risk but only if the chosen antibiotics neither have any influence on specifications of the investigational medicinal product nor interfere with microbiological tests. Consequently, cells and tissues primarily contaminated with microorganisms, like placenta, may be considered as a source of cellular therapeutics when cultured for a sufficient time with antibiotics and tested with a validated method. The choice of microorganisms for the validation of the microbiological test should always consider all conceivable scenarios and should not be reduced to minimal criteria defined in European Pharmacopoiea, wrongfully believing to thus save time and effort.

Keywords: Advanced therapy medicinal product; Antibiotics; Mesenchymal stromal/stem cells; Microbial contamination; Sterility.