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New tool allows human eye to detect bacteria and biofilm on surfaces in real time

Posted by admin on April 25, 2014

See bacterial contamination on surfaces in real time

We all know how a fluorescent light works, where an atom has energy put to it and one or more of the electrons orbiting the center of the atom become excited by the additional energy and jump up to a higher orbit. When the external energy is removed, the electron returns to it's original orbit and emits the energy in the form of light. Now imagine this taking place within the phosphorescent compounds in bacteria. Just like a florescent light, they glow.

Luminescence meters work on this principle, whereby a surface is sampled with a swab, the swab is inserted in a tube, and low intensity luminescence is induced chemically to react with ATP, a form of chemical energy found in all living things, including live bacteria. Light output is achieved. The device measures the light and a unit of measurement is endeavored under the premise that more ATP equals more light equals more bacteria.

As a sampling tool for surfaces, luminescence meters have some limitations. First, You have to sample a surface you cannot see, so it is uncertain what was sampled. Second, you have to hope that what you sampled with uncertainty does not have an invisible layer of biofilm that obscures the ATP signal of the bacteria. Lastly, a leap of faith regarding the relationship between emitted light and a number on a readout intended to measure a quantity is required, and that number is based on several progressively dependant physical and chemical processes, all subject to variation. Many users claim they get erratic results and cannot explain why. Don’t get me wrong, the science is sound, but in practical application on surfaces in the wild, it just does not make the grade as a measuring instrument for industrial surfaces.

So what would happen if we could detect that same type of luminescence without external chemicals or contact, on a surface? It would be ideal if the released energy was at or near the visible light spectrum so we could see it with our own eyes, in real time.

Previous methods used cumbersome light sources, reflectors, refractors, filters, and complicated alignment procedures, but a new technology eliminates these barriers.

It is now possible to see the contamination on large or irregular surfaces. Target species bacteria can be located on hard to reach areas without having to actually physically contact all of the surfaces first. If a biofilm exists, the energy is directed to it and through it, exposing the living bacteria beneath the biofilm in real time. Identification, sampling and eradication are more effective and more efficient. Instead of a “hit or miss” sampling strategy with a 2 minute lag, this technology produces a human visible “hit” sampling strategy in real time.

As a true breakthrough in food safety, United Sanitizing is pleased to offer the Portable INstant PathOgen INdicating Tool - PINPOINT.


Photo: A valve under indoor light (left), black light (center), and PINPOINT (right). The bright areas under PINPOINT illumination were later sampled and identified as E. coli  

Designed with large commercial operations in mind, PINPOINT focuses the sampling, identification, and eradication of pathogenic bacteria including E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. No physical contact or chemicals are required. The self contained PINPOINT is designed to illuminate specific pathogenic bacteria on irregular surfaces to include tanks and vessels, valves, pipes, panels, conveyors, and anyplace where pathogens hide. Once these contaminated surfaces are identified, more accurate microbial samples can be obtained and hygiene procedures can be employed with greater accuracy and confidence. More than just black light, PINPOINT used select energy frequencies to match specific bacterial species like a tuning fork, allowing selective identification of contaminated areas. Bacteria that cannot be seen with black light alone can be seen with PINPOINT.

PINPOINT is also available as a borescope, capable of inspecting pipeline internals, where bacteria grow in the porosity of welds and couplings.

Your United Sanitizing application engineer is ready to show how PINPOINT can improve your quality and budget. More information at www.unitedsanitizing.com


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