The uses and abuses of rapid bioluminescence-based ATP assays
2012-11-28T10:22:57Z (GMT) by
Bioluminescence-based ATP testing of solid surfaces has become well established in the food processing industry as part of general hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) measures. The rise in healthcare associated infections (HAIs) at the turn of the century focussed attention on the environment as a potential reservoir of the agents responsible for such infections. In response to the need for objective methods of assessing the efficiency of cleaning in healthcare establishments and for rapid methods for detecting the presence of the pathogens responsible for HAIs, it was proposed that ATP testing of environmental surfaces be introduced. We examine the basis behind the assumptions inherent in these proposals. Intracellular ATP levels are shown to vary between microbial taxa and according to environmental conditions. Good correlations between microbial numbers and ATP levels have been obtained under certain specific conditions, but never within healthcare settings. Notwithstanding, ATP testing may still have a role in providing reassurance that cleaning regimes are being carried out satisfactorily. However, ATP results should not be interpreted as surrogate indicators for the presence of microbial pathogens.