General Microbiology

Terms in Sterilization

Terms used in Sterilization


Killing or removing all forms of microbial life (including endospores) in a material or an object. Any process that eliminates, removes, kills, or deactivates all forms of life and other biological agents (e.g. fungi, bacteria, viruses etc.) present in a specified region is Sterilization. It can be achieved by physical and chemical methods. Heating is the most commonly used method.




It is the process, which involves elimination of most pathogenic microorganisms (excluding bacterial spores) on inanimate objects. Reducing the number of pathogenic microorganisms to the point where they no longer cause diseases. Usually involves removal of vegetative or non-endospore forming pathogens.



Antimicrobial agents that are applied to the surface of non-living objects to destroy microorganisms that are living on them Chemicals used in disinfection are called disinfectants. These are applied to inanimate objects. E.g. Alcohols, Formaldehyde, Quaternary ammonium salts, Glutaraldehyde etc.



An antiseptic is a substance that stops or slows down the growth of microorganisms. They’re frequently used in hospitals and other medical settings to reduce the risk or possibility of infection during surgery and other procedures, sepsis, or putrefaction.  It is applied to living tissue (antisepsis). E.g. Iodine, Hydrogen peroxide, Boric acid etc.



Mechanical removal of most microbes of most microbes from an animate or inanimate surface of a limited area. E.g. Alcohol swab on skin. These methods remove most (but not all) microbes from skin surface.



It is any cleaning technique that mechanically removes microorganisms to reduce contamination to safe levels (officially approved as safe). Use of chemical agent on food-handling equipment to meet public health standards and minimize chances of disease transmission. Cleansing of fomites to remove enough microbes to achieve levels deemed safe for public health. E.g. Hot soap & water.




Sepsis: Indicates bacterial contamination. Also termed as unsterile.


Asepsis: Absence of significant contamination or sterile. It is also termed as employment of techniques (such as usage of gloves, air filters, UV rays etc.) to achieve microbe-free environment


Antisepsis: A process involving destruction or inhibition of microorganisms in living tissue thereby limiting or preventing the harmful effects of infection.


Aseptic techniques

Methods used to prevent contamination of surgical instruments, medical personnel, and patients during surgery, used to prevent bacterial contamination in food industry etc.


Bacteriostatic Agent

A biological or chemical agent that inhibits growth of bacteria, but does not necessarily kill them. They are used to limit a bacterial infection in progress, allowing it to be removed by immune system.



An agent, substance or process that kills germs (bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that can cause infection and disease).


  • Bactericide: An agent or substance that kills bacteria. Most do not kill endospores.



  • Fungicide: A biocidal chemical compounds or biological organisms used to kill parasitic fungi or their spores. It is also called antimycotic.


  • Sporicide: An agent disinfectant or other chemical, that kills bacterial endospores.




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