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The impact of distinct culture media in Leishmania infantum biology and infectivity



An ideal culture medium for Leishmania promastigotes should retain the basic characteristics of promastigotes found in sandflies (morphology and infectivity). Furthermore, the media should not create a bias in experimental settings, thus enabling the proper extrapolation of results. To assess this we studied several established media for promastigote growth. We analysed morphology, viability, cell cycle progression, metacyclic profile, capacity to differentiate into axenic amastigotes and infectivity. Furthermore, using a rational approach from the evaluated media we developed a simple serum-free medium (cRPMI). We report that parasites growing in different media present different biological characteristics and distinct in vitro and in vivo infectivities. The developed medium, cRPMI, proved to be a less expensive substitute for traditional serum-supplemented media for the in vitro maintenance of promastigotes. In fact, cRPMI is ideal for the maintenance of parasites in the laboratory, diminishing the expected loss of virulence over time typical of the parasite cultivation. Ultimately this report is a clear warning that the normalization of culture media should be a real concern in the field as media-specific phenomena are sufficient to induce biological bias with consequences in infectivity and general parasite biology.


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* Corresponding author: Parasite Disease Group, Unit of Infection and Immunity, IBMC – Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular, Universidade do Porto, Rua do Campo Alegre, 823, 4150-180 Porto, Portugal. E-mail:


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The impact of distinct culture media in Leishmania infantum biology and infectivity



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