Rickettsiae tend to have a rapid decrease of viability outside living cells. Therefore, the transport of samples containing viable rickettsiae for culturing in cell culture for diagnostic purposes is challenging.
The viability of rickettsiae in different transport media (commercially available transport medium COPAN “UTM-RT transport medium for viruses, chlamydia, mycoplasma, and ureaplasma,” minimal essential medium (MEM) with and without 10% foetal calf serum) at various time points at 4 °C and at ambient temperature (22 °C) was compared. Rickettsia honei was used as model organism.
After 2 weeks of storage at room temperature, no viable rickettsiae were detectable any more while storage at 4 °C kept rickettsiae viable for up to 4 weeks. The commercially available COPAN medium showed similarly good or slightly better stabilizing effects on rickettsiae compared with MEM + 10% foetal calf serum, pure MEM demonstrated the poorest results.
It is important to transport and store media with potentially rickettsiae-containing samples at 4 °C to prevent inactivation. MEM + 10% foetal calf serum can be used if no commercial medium is available with similarly good results.