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Biology LibreTexts

13: Control of Microbial Growth

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    • 13.1: Controlling Microbial Growth
      Inanimate items, such as doorknobs, toys, or towels, which may harbor microbes and aid in disease transmission, are called fomites. Two factors heavily influence the level of cleanliness required for a particular fomite and, hence, the protocol chosen to achieve this level. The first factor is the application for which the item will be used and the second factor is the level of resistance to antimicrobial treatment by potential pathogens.
    • 13.2: Using Physical Methods to Control Microorganisms
      For thousands of years, humans have used various physical methods of microbial control for food preservation. Common control methods include the application of high temperatures, radiation, filtration, and desiccation (drying), among others. Many of these methods nonspecifically kill cells by disrupting membranes, changing membrane permeability, or damaging proteins and nucleic acids by denaturation, degradation, or chemical modification.
    • 13.3: Using Chemicals to Control Microorganisms
      In addition to physical methods of microbial control, chemicals are also used to control microbial growth. A wide variety of chemicals can be used as disinfectants or antiseptics. This section describes the variety of chemicals used as disinfectants and antiseptics, including their mechanisms of action and common uses.
    • 13.4: Testing the Effectiveness of Antiseptics and Disinfectants
      Several environmental conditions influence the potency of an antimicrobial agent and its effectiveness. For example, length of exposure is particularly important, with longer exposure increasing efficacy. Similarly, the concentration of the chemical agent is also important, with higher concentrations being more effective than lower ones. Temperature, pH, and other factors can also affect the potency of a disinfecting agent.

    Thumbnail: Scanning electron microscope image of Vibrio cholerae bacteria, which infect the digestive system. (Public Domain; T.J. Kirn, M.J. Lafferty, C.M.P Sandoe and R.K. Taylor).