Monitoring the effectiveness of hospital cleaning practices by use of an adenosine triphosphate bioluminescence assay

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2009 Jul;30(7):678-84. doi: 10.1086/598243.


Objective: To evaluate the usefulness of an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) bioluminescence assay for assessing the efficacy of daily hospital cleaning practices.

Design: A 2-phase prospective intervention study.

Setting: A university-affiliated community teaching hospital.

Methods: During phase I of our study, 5 high-touch surfaces in 20 patient rooms were sampled before and after daily cleaning. Moistened swabs were used to sample these surfaces and were then plated onto routine and selective media, and aerobic colony counts were determined after 48 hours of incubation. Specialized ATP swabs were used to sample the same high-touch surfaces in the 20 patient rooms and were then placed in luminometers, and the amount of ATP present was expressed as relative light units. During phase II of our study, after in-service housekeeper educational sessions were given, the housekeepers were told in advance when ATP readings would be taken before and after cleaning.

Results: During phase I, the colony counts revealed that the 5 high-touch surfaces were often not cleaned adequately. After cleaning, 24 (24%) of the 100 surface samples were still contaminated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and 16 (16%) of the 100 surface samples still yielded vancomycin-resistant enterococci. ATP readings (expressed as relative light units) revealed that only bathroom grab bars and toilet seats were significantly cleaner after daily cleaning than before. During phase II, a total of 1,013 ATP readings were obtained before and after daily cleaning in 105 rooms. The median relative light unit was significantly lower (ie, surfaces were cleaner) after cleaning than before cleaning for all 5 high-touch surfaces.

Conclusions: Suboptimal cleaning practices were documented by determining aerobic colony counts and by use of an ATP bioluminescence assay. ATP readings provided quantitative evidence of improved cleanliness of high-touch surfaces after the implementation of an intervention program.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / analysis*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Connecticut
  • Enterococcus / isolation & purification
  • Health Services Research / methods*
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Housekeeping, Hospital / methods
  • Housekeeping, Hospital / standards*
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods
  • Infection Control / standards
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification
  • Patients' Rooms / standards*
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Vancomycin Resistance


  • Adenosine Triphosphate