Mycoplasma are prokaryotic cellular organisms and the smallest cells capable of autonomous growth. Mycoplasma lack a rigid cell wall and they are pleiomorphic which means they can change size and shape. The cells size range is from 0.15 to 1.0 µm. The organisms are sensitive to oxygen tension and osmotic shock and they can pass through bacterial filters. Due to them being able to pass through bacterial filters, mycoplasma can cause economically important infections in mammary glands, respiratory tract, genital tracts and synovia in animals like sheep, goats, pigs, etc.
Mycoplasma infections do not always result in microscopic alterations of cells or media. The infections may grow slowly, and the host cells are not destroyed which can still alter the metabolism of the culture in subtle ways. The way mycoplasma contamination occurs in the cell cultures is not certain in any instance. In studies by Barile, it is stated that mycoplasma contamination of cultures is the result of multiple factors involving the investigator, the type of cell culture and the media (Barile, et al., 1978). Mycoplasma-infected cultures are the most common source of further contamination, according to McGarrity (1976). A list of recommendation for preventing and controlling mycoplasma contamination was created by him and includes:
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