Nanobacteria-like particles: A threat to cell cultures

Amauri Braga Simonetti, Gelsa Edith Englert, Karen Campos, Michelle Mergener, Cíntia De David, Anna Paula De Oliveira, Paulo Michel Roehe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The main goal of this study is to alert researchers who work with cell cultures for the risk of contamination by structures called nanobacteria (NB). NB are tiny structures with size varying from 80 to 500 nm, commonly occurring in clusters and producing a biofilm which contains carbonate or hydroxyl apatite. The most likely source of cell culture contamination by such organisms is serum used as supplement in culture media. The presence of NB leads to a progressive culture deterioration with accumulation of granules (probably phagocytized NB) in cytoplasmic vacuoles, an increasing number of dead cells in the supernatant and degeneration of cells that remained attached to the bottom of the vessel. NB can also be found in culture supernatants where they are found in clusters with variable size and displaying brownian movement. In this study, 19 cell lineages, 8 batches of sera and 1 batch of growth supplement from different sources were analyzed. Samples from sera were cultured in Eagle's Minimum Essential Medium (E-MEM) or incubated directly at 37°C. Tests carried out to detect the presence of extracellular bacteria, Mycoplasma sp and viruses were all negative. Analysis by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) revealed tiny oval structures less than 500 nm in size, isolated or in small groups, in all material analyzed except in one fetal bovine serum batch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-158
Number of pages6
JournalBrazilian Journal of Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell culture
  • Contamination
  • Fetal bovine serum (FBS)
  • Nanobacteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology


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