Pros and Cons of ATP vs. Bacterial Counts - The Need for Complementary Measurement Strategies

Benjamin Tanner, PhD

In healthcare environments, ATP is good in that it's quick but bad in that it's not a great indicator of microbial risk (counts both live and dead bacteria, doesn't differentiate pathogens from non-pathogens).  Counting of bacterial colony forming units (CFUs) is good in that it's a great indicator of microbial risk (counts only viable organisms, and selective agars can differentiate pathogens/indicators from non-pathogens easily) but bad in that it takes at least a day while you wait for colonies to grow, and then you're stuck with contaminated and potentially hazardous agar plates to dispose of.


Using these methods in a complementary fashion makes sense – ATP as a general barometer of cleaning and hygiene, and Bacterial Counts for checking for levels of specific microbes.


Pros and Cons of ATP vs. Bacterial Counts - The Need for Complementary Measurement Strategies:  Created on October 10th, 2008.  Last Modified on October 10th, 2008


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· 13 years ago

How then would cleaning measurement be addressed outside of a healthcare environment where the use of bacterial counts is readily available? Would it be safe to say, as you have written "ATP [is] a general barometer of cleaning and hygiene," that ATP would/could be a good measure of "clean" when bacterial counts are not available, let's say in a school environment, a stadium or convention center?

October 10th, 2008 | 8:59am Reply

About Benjamin Tanner, PhD

Benjamin Tanner holds a B.S. in Molecular Biology and a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Arizona, where he studied environmentally mediated disease transmission and assessed infection risks for workers. Dr. Tanner is the founder and principal of Antimicrobial Test Laboratories, LLC, a microbiology laboratory that specializes in testing and development of disinfectant chemicals and other antimicrobial technologies.

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