Opportunities for the application of real-time bacterial cell analysis using flow cytometry for the advancement of sterilization microbiology
Rowan, Neil J.
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Medical devices provide critical care and diagnostic applications through patient contact. Sterility assurance level (SAL) may be defined as the probability of a single viable micro-organism occurring on an item after a sterilization process. Sterilization microbiology often relies upon using an overkill validation method where a 12-log reduction in recalcitrant bacterial endospore population occurs during the process that exploits conventional laboratory-based culture media for enumeration. This timely review explores key assumptions underpinning use of conventional culture-based methods in sterilization microbiology. Consideration is given to how such methods may limit the ability to fully appreciate the inactivation kinetics of a sterilization process such as vaporized hydrogen peroxide (VH2O2) sterilization, and consequently design efficient sterilization processes. Specific use of the real-time flow cytometry (FCM) is described by way of elucidating the practical relevance of these limitation factors with implications and opportunities for the sterilization industry discussed. Application of FCM to address these culture-based limitation factors will inform real-time kinetic inactivation modelling and unlock potential to embrace emerging opportunities for pharma, medical device and sterilization industries including potentially disruptive applications that may involve reduced usage of sterilant.
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