A pilot study into locating the bad bugs in a busy intensive care unit


      • The persistence of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) within intensive care units poses a significant risk to patient safety.
      • A new approach to locating these MDRO was investigated using environmental microbiology with adenosine triphosphate testing, which demonstrated a significant improvement in identification of MDRO locations.
      • Results suggests that MDRO may be hiding within clinical staff work areas and away from immediate patient zones.


      The persistence of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) within an intensive care unit (ICU) possibly contained within dry surface biofilms, remains a perplexing confounder and is a threat to patient safety. Identification of residential locations of MDRO within the ICU is an intervention for which new scientific approaches may assist in finding potential MDRO reservoirs.


      This study investigated a new approach to sampling using a more aggressive environmental swabbing technique of high-touch objects (HTOs) and surfaces, aided by 2 commercially available adenosine triphosphate (ATP) bioluminometers.


      A total of 13 individual MDRO locations identified in this pilot study. The use of ATP bioluminometers was significantly associated with the identification of 12 of the 13 individual MDRO locations. The MDRO recovery and readings from the 2 ATP bioluminometers were not significantly correlated with distinct cutoffs for each ATP device, and there was no correlation between the 2 ATP devices.


      The specific MDRO locations were not limited to the immediate patient surroundings or to any specific HTO or type of surface. The use of ATP testing helped rapidly identify the soiled locations for MDRO sampling. The greatest density of positive MDRO locations was around and within the clinical staff work station.

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