Disinfection is a measure designed to reduce, through elimination, inactivation or removal / dilution, the maximum of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, spores to control the risk of infection of people or contamination of objects or environments.

In the case of water, disinfection is a possible stage of refinement for the use of water subject to high quality standards (pharmaceutical, cosmetic and microelectronics industry) or for the recovery of contaminated water before its recycling in the production process.

The concept of disinfection, if applied to surfaces and environments, has a different meaning compared to sterilization. In fact, sterilizing means the total elimination and / or inactivation of all living forms, including viruses, spores and nematodes, whereas the disinfection process is limited to pathogenic species.

Disinfection methods:

Following are the disinfection methods used:
• Disinfection by natural means:
o Physical
• Solar radiation (especially the ultraviolet fraction of sunlight, which is less penetrating, must directly affect the microbial flora to perform the disinfectant function).
• Drying (the heat of the sun causes the drying of the protoplasm of the germs)
• Temperature (over 37 ° C reduces vitality and more than 45 ° starts killing germs)

o Biological
• Vital competition (carried out by micro-organisms with direct action, as in the case of bacteriophage viruses, or with indirect action through the modification of the substrate that is rendered unfit for development).
• Dilution (if the pathogens are diluted within vehicles, such as water or air, they hardly reach the bacterial level necessary for the infection to become a disease).

Disinfection by artificial means:
o Physicochemical
• Artificial UV radiation
• Pasteurization and U.H.T. treatment.
• Dry heat (hot air laboratory stoves and mittens)
• Moist heat and steam (autoclave)
• Flame, incandescence and combustion
• Boiling
• Chemo-thermal cleaning (dishwashers, washing machines, etc.)
• Ionizing radiation (gamma rays)
• Aseptic filtration (laminar flow hood)

o Chemical disinfection with disinfectants such as:
• Alcohols such as propanol, isopropyl alcohol, ethanol
• Aldehydes such as formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, glycosal
• Phenols and derivatives such as thymol, creosol
• Oxidants such as ozone, hydrogen peroxide, potassium permanganate
• Halogens such as chlorine, iodine, bromine, hypochlorous acid and its derivatives (sodium hypochlorite, lithium hypochlorite, iodophors)
• Guanidine
• Cationic and anionic detergents (quaternary ammonium salts)

Depending on the use, disinfectants can be designed for objects, for the hands, for air and for surfaces.


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