Risks from Cell Lines

A key risk factor for cell lines, other than the contamination of the original tissue, is the potential of any in-vitro cell culture to be contaminated with (and possibly support) the growth of fastidious and potentially pathogenic microorganisms (e.g., viruses, prions, Mycoplasma). As discussed earlier, a variety of factors can influence infectious risk, and in particular the species and tissue of origin will influence the level of risk associated with a particular cell culture. The relative risks from different species/tissues has already been reviewed [29, 30], and will enable some critical viral and other risks to be identified. However, other factors may also influence this risk, an important example being the geographical origin of the cells or tissue, as disease type and incidence in human and animal populations will clearly vary between different countries and regions

For most routine cell culture laboratories, the major concerns will relate to the potential for cell contamination with serious human pathogens that would put laboratory workers at risk (e.g., HIV1 and 2, HTLV I and II, hepatitis B). Testing cell banks for such viruses can provide confidence in the safety of work with cell lines, though this is dependent on the availability and quality of the testing performed. A negative test which is not adequately sensitive or not appropriate (e.g., it detects antibody response to viral infection only found in blood samples, not qualified with cell lines) may in fact be dangerous in that it could give false confidence to laboratory staff by giving false-negative results. Such testing should be considered carefully and carried out by an accredited laboratory.

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