Difference Between Sterilization and Disinfection

Sterilization Vs Disinfection

Disinfection and sterilization are both decontamination processes. While disinfection is the process of eliminating or reducing harmful microorganisms from inanimate objects and surfaces, sterilization is the process of killing all microorganisms.

Microorganisms are ubiquitous. Since they cause contamination, infection, and decay, it becomes necessary to remove or destroy them from materials or areas via decontamination. Sterilization and disinfection are two modes of decontamination.

Disinfection aims at killing the microbes to a level that the infection does not transmit, but it does not necessarily kill all the microorganisms present in an inanimate object.

However, sterilization is a process of decontamination wherein all the microorganisms present in an object destroy, and consequently, the object becomes a sterile one.

Therefore, the sterilization process kills the spores including endospores of bacteria as well. In short, we can say that sterilization kills all the microorganisms present in an object or a place whereas disinfection only reduces the number of harmful microorganisms to prevent transmission.

Difference Between Sterilization and Disinfection

What is Sterilization?

Sterilization is the process of destructing all forms of microbial life including bacteria, spores, viruses, and prions. Therefore, the method of sterilization employed depends on, the purpose, the material which has to be sterilized, the nature of the microorganism that is present, etc.

At the end of the sterilization process, the treated object can consider a sterile object since it does not contain any microbes or spores.

Sterilization is two modes; physical methods as well as chemical methods. Physical methods include heat, radiation, and filtration while chemical methods involve liquid and gaseous chemicals.

In addition, a combination of physical and chemical methods (physio-chemical methods) also involved sterilization. Different sterilization methods commonly used include steam sterilization, heating, chemical sterilization, radiation sterilization, and sterile filtration.

Moreover, an ideal sterilant is the one that could function effectively and efficiently in all circumstances and should possess the following features.

  1. Should be capable of destroying all types of microorganisms including viruses, bacteria and fungi.
  2. It should not adversely affect medical instruments.
  3. Should act rapidly, allowing the use of instruments meant for various sterilization and disinfection methods.

What is Disinfection?

Disinfection is the process of destroying harmful pathogens in their vegetative state and reducing the number of microorganisms to levels that no longer pose a threat to human health.

The purpose of doing this is to prevent transmission of certain microorganisms with objects, hands, or skin and prevent spreading the infection.

Disinfection is done by disinfectants, and they are the antimicrobial agents that apply to non-living objects to destroy microorganisms that are living on the objects.

It is important to understand that disinfection only reduces the number of microorganisms and does not completely eliminate them. Accordingly, disinfectants have wide use in our day-to-day life.

They are of two types; broad-spectrum, which acts over a large variety of microorganisms, and narrow spectrum, which acts on a small variety of microorganisms.

Furthermore, they are easy to use, non-toxic, and comparatively inexpensive. The different disinfectants commonly used are alcohols, aldehyde, an oxidizing agent, phenols, polyaminopropyl biguanide, etc.

Main Difference Between Sterilization and Disinfection?

  • Sterilization is the process of killing all the microorganisms present in an object while the disinfection is the process of eliminating or reducing disease-causing microorganisms from an inanimate object.
  • Sterilization is capable of killing spores of microorganisms while disinfection is not capable of killing spores.

What are the Similarities Between Sterilization and Disinfection?

  • Sterilization and disinfection are two methods of decontamination of objects.
  • Both methods utilize physical and chemical methods.
  • Also, both are effective methods of preventing transmission of infections and diseases.
  • Furthermore, both methods are commonly employed every day for various purposes.

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