ATP Bioluminescence: Detecting Microbial Contamination in Dentifrices

Cosmetic microbiologists have relied on standard methods for detecting microbial contamination in finished product and raw material samples. These methods are based upon incubation times that range from five to seven days. In addition to being labor-intensive and time-consuming, these procedures require different types of media. Standard microbiological testing is based upon transferring and incubating sample aliquots from different types of media for bacteria, yeast and mold. However, new molecular methods can rapidly detect microorganisms in contaminated samples within 24-27 hours without compromising efficacy and sensitivity.

In the 21st century, cosmetic manufacturing requires faster and more accurate quality control evaluation of processes and products. Advances in computer sciences, chemistry and microbiology have optimized formulation and manufacturing of cosmetic products. However, microbial contamination is still one of the major reasons for product recalls and manufacturing losses. Therefore, there is a need for rapid quality control testing.

One rapid technology depends on detecting essential molecules such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is a high-energy phosphate compound that is essential for microbial growth and viability. ATP is present in all living microorganisms and can be used to ascertain the presence or absence of microbial contamination in cosmetic products. Published reports describe how ATP bioluminescence is used to perform rapid microbiological analysis of clinical, food and pharmaceutical samples.

The bioluminescence assay is based upon the light-producing enzyme luciferase that will hydrolyze ATP to produce light. Light production is detected by a luminometer and recorded as relative light units (RLU). The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate and validate the use an ATP bioluminescence assay for detecting microbial contamination in eight artificially contaminated commercial dentifrice formulations with different concentrations of active ingredients and to compare the results against standard microbiological analysis.

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