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Difference Between Sterilization and Disinfection

Sterilization kills all viable microorganisms. * Disinfection only reduces the number of viable microorganisms. High level disinfection will kill most vegetative microorganisms but will not kill the more resistant bacterial spores. Commonly used disinfectants such as alcohol, iodophors, quaternary ammonium and phenolic compounds are not effective sterilants and, therefore, are not acceptable for use on items intended to be used in survival surgical procedures. The preferred methods of sterilization are high pressure steam/temperature (in autoclaves) for items that can withstand high temperature, and ethylene oxide gas for items that cannot withstand high temperature. However, cold chemical sterilants may be used effectively for many items. Approved sterilization procedures: * High pressure/temperature steam sterilization using an autoclave and appropriate monitoring systems (i.e. spore strips, etc.) to assure sterility. * Gas sterilization with ethylene oxide using an approved gas sterilizer and appropriate monitoring systems to assure sterility and personnel safety. * Cold (chemical) sterilization used properly. Effective and proper use of cold sterilization is dependent on many factors including: o The use of chemicals classified as sterilants. Those classified only as disinfectants are not adequate. o The physical properties of the item being sterilized. It must be relatively smooth, impervious to moisture, and be of a shape that permits all surfaces to be exposed to the sterilant. o Adequate exposure to all surfaces, both interior and exterior. Tubing must be completely filled and the materials to be sterilized must be clean and arranged in the sterilant to assure total immersion. The items being sterilized must be exposed to the sterilant for the prescribed period of time. o Use of efficacious solutions: The sterilant solution must be clean and fresh. Most sterilants come in solutions consisting of two parts that when added together form what is referred to as an activated solution. The shelf life of activated solutions is indicated in the instructions for commercial products. Generally, this is from one to four weeks. o Rinse instruments, implants, and tubing (both inside and out) should be rinsed with sterile saline or sterile water prior to use to avoid tissue damage. Approved Sterilization Products: There are many acceptable commercial sterilants available and their use is encouraged over preparing solutions from basic ingredients. Only products classified as sterilants are to be used for sterilizing instruments and implants for surgery and they must be used according to the manufacturers recommendations for sterilization. Following are examples of commercial products listed by brand names: * Heat (glass bead sterilizers) is effective at sterilizing materials that are not heat sensitive (metal instruments). These devices are very effective and convenient to use. Caution must be exercised

to rinse the heated instruments in cool sterile saline BEFORE introducing the instruments into a body part. * Cidex: Active ingredient: 2% Glutaraldehyde. The manufacturers instructions indicate that a minimum of 10 hours is required for sterilization. Cidex comes in two formulations, Cidex and Cidex-7 (long-life). The shelf life of activated Cidex is 15 days and of activated Cidex-7 is 28 days. * Clidox: Active ingredient: Chlorine dioxide. 1:5 mixture must be mixed daily. 1:18 mixture is good for 14 days. 1:5 is a good sterilant; 1:18 is a disinfectant. * Alcide: Active ingredient: Sodium hypohlorite 1.37%. The manufacturers instructions indicate that a minimum of 6 hours is required for sterilization. The shelf life of the activated solution is 14 days. * Other acceptable sterilants are the following chemicals classified as sterilants by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These are the chemical ingredients of some of the commercial sterilants: o Glutaraldehyde (2%) for a minimum of 10 hours. o Formaldehyde (8%) / Alcohol (70%); minimum of 18 hours. o Stabilized hydrogen peroxide (6%) for a minimum of 6 hours.

Sterilization vs Disinfection
Sterilization and disinfection are both methods of decontamination. Disinfection is aimed at killing the microbes to a level that the infection does not get transmitted and it does not necessarily kills all the microorganisms present in the equipment being disinfected. However, sterilization is a process of decontamination wherein all the microorganisms present on the surface of the equipment is killed and the object is called as sterile. Sterilization process is also known to kill all the spores present on the object to be sterilized. In short we can say that sterilization kills all the viable microorganism whereas disinfection only reduces the number of viable microorganisms.

Sterilization is a treatment that frees the treated object of all the living organisms. It can be achieved by exposure to physical, chemical agents and in case of certain solutions, by filtration. Physical methods include heat, radiation and filtration. Chemical methods involved in sterilization include using liquid and gaseous chemicals. Sometimes physio-chemical method which is a combination of physical and chemical method is used. Different sterilization methods commonly used include: steam sterilization, heating, chemical sterilization, radiation sterilization and sterile filtration.

Disinfection only reduces the number of microorganisms and do not completely eliminates them. The disinfection is mostly used in the practical life. Disinfection is carried out with the use of disinfectants. Disinfectants are of two types broad spectrum which acts over large variety of microorganisms and narrow spectrum which acts on small variety of microorganisms and are easy to use, non toxic and comparatively inexpensive. The different disinfectants commonly used are alcohols, aldehyde, oxidizing agent, phenolic, biguanide polymer polyaminopropyl biguanide is a bactericidal at very low concentrations, to disinfect smooth, opaque materials high density shortwave UV light, sodium bicarbonate also has some disinfectant properties. Comparison Sterilization vs disinfection Disinfection only reduces the number of microorganisms whereas sterilization is the method of complete removal of the microorganisms. Disinfection is commonly used in daily life and practicality whereas sterilization is used in surgical operations or in labs where sterile condition is necessary. The sterilization methods are well defined and need to be followed strictly to completely remove the microorganisms. Disinfection does not require a very strict protocol to be followed.

Sterilization is absolute whereas disinfection only reduces the number of microorganism and there is no guarantee that it will not result in infection. A sterile object has no viable microorganism present whereas disinfected object has lesser load of the microorganism. Disinfection can only kill vegetative form of the microorganism it cannot kill the highly resistant spores whereas sterilization can kill even the resistant spores. Summary Sterilization and disinfection are the methods of making an object free from contamination. Depending on the purpose of decontamination either disinfection or sterilization can be used.