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Microbial Control Physical Means

Nestor T. Hilvano, M.D., M.P.H.

Learning Objectives
You should be able to:
1. Contrast sterilization, disinfection, antisepsis, sanitization
, and pasteurization .
2. Compare the effects of "-static" versus "-cidal" control
agents on microbial growth.
3. Define microbial death rate, and describe its significance
in microbial control.
4. Describe how antimicrobial agents act against cell
boundaries, proteins, and nucleic acids.
5. Identify the three most-resistant groups of microbes, and
explain why they are resistant to many antimicrobial
6. Describe types of physical methods of microbial control
and discuss their advantages and disadvantages.

Microbial Control
Antisepsis reduction in number of microorganisms and
viruses on living tissue; ex: alcohol, iodine
Disinfection destruction of most microorganisms and
viruses on non-living tissue; ex: alcohol, phenol
Pasteurization use of heat to destroy pathogen; ex:
pasteurized milk and fruit juice
Sanitation removal of pathogens from objects to meet
public health standards; ex: washing table wares in
Sterilization destruction of all microorganisms and
viruses in or on an object; by autoclave, incineration, or
ethylene oxide gas; ex: preparing culture media

Microbial Death Rates

Microbial death permanent loss of
reproductive ability
MDR is constant over time for any microbes
under a particular set of conditions
Ex in graph: 90%/min.; requires 9 mins. to
achieve sterilization

Physical Methods of Microbial Control


Heat moist; dry

Low temperature refrigeration; freezing
Osmotic pressure

Heat oldest and common means
Thermal death point -lowest temp. that kills
all cells in10 mins.
Thermal death time minimum time
required to kill all organisms at given temp.
(ex: 22.5 mins)
Decimal reduction time (D) - time required
to kill 90%of organisms; useful in food
processing to eliminate endospores of C.

Moist Heat
Moist Heat used to disinfect, sanitize, sterilize, &
1.Boiling vegetative bacteria & fungi, trophozoites
of protozoas,and most viruses in 10 mins.
2. Autoclave uses steam heat under pressure
(121C, 15 psi at 15 mins.) to sterilize chemicals
and objects.
3.Pasteurization heating food/beverages to kill
pathogens and control spoilage organisms.

Dry Heat
Dry Heat at higher temp. for longer
1. Oven - 160C for 2 hrs., for powders and
2. bunsen burner
3. complete incineration

Refrigeration and Freezing

Refrigeration = between 0C and 7C, halts
growth of most pathogens
Slow Freezing = below 0C , inhibits
microbial metabolism; but many vegetitive
bacterial cells, bacterial endospores, and
viruses can survive for years

Desiccation & Lyophilization

Desiccation drying to preserve foods;
inhibits growth because metabolism
requires liquid water
Lyophilization freeze-drying; preserve
microbes and other cells for many years;
freeze culture in liquid nitrogen or frozen
CO2, then remove water via a vacuum

Filtration & Osmotic Pressure

Filtration passage of air or liquid
through material that traps and removes
microbes; 0.3 m for O.R.; 0.22 m for
bacteria; 0.01 m for viruses
Osmotic pressure use of high
concentration of salt/sugar; drawing out
of water; ex. honey, jams, salted fish, and

1. Ionizing radiation wavelengths shorter than 1
nm; electron beams, gamma rays, X-rays;
effects leading to denaturation (destroy DNA);
medical/lab equipment sterilization
2. Nonionizing radiation wavelengths longer
than 1 nm; UV light, visible light, infrared light,
radio waves; UV causes pyrimidine dimers
which kills cells; sterilization of surfaces and of
transparent fluids and gases
3. Microwaves heat kills microbes; Trichinella
spiralis in pork resist heating


Define terms: sterilization, disinfection, antisepsis,

sanitation, bacteriostatic, and bactericidal.
Compare moist heat and dry heat method of microbial
control and discuss advantages and disadvantages.
Compare uses/advantages of microbial control of
desiccation and lyophilization; and filtration and
osmotic pressure.
Compare ionizing and non-ionizing radiation.
What is microbial death rate? Decimal reduction time?