Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig 1997, 48(3): 263-268

Mechanizmy działania czynników fizycznych na drobnoustroje
[Mechanisms of antimicrobial activity of physical agents]

M. Strus


Among numerous physical agents exerting their deleterious effect on microorganisms only a new have been applied to sterilisation or disinfection used for medical purposes. Temperature is the most important agent, which from one side in a very wide range enables supporting of Metabolic processes of psychro-, mezo- and thermophilic microorganisms, but beyond these limits causes their death. High temperature induces at first damage of cytoplasmic membrane and then dénaturation of RNA leading to death. On the other hand, a low temperature slowly decreasing below 0°C induces crystallisation of water in cells and destruction of cytoplasmic structures. Ultraviolet radiation causes mutations resulting in stopping of DNA replication in all forms of the microorganisms. The same way of the lethal activity is exerted by ionising radiation. Its Idnetic energy induces mutations affecting not single bases but also whole opérons making gene expression impossible.   Gaseous plasma is a new physical agent applied recently to sterilisation. High frequency energy initiates generation of the plasma from hydrogen peroxide vapours in a high vacuum and creates reactive species particles from the vapours that collide and kill microorganisms. On the other hand, application of ultrasound radiation to killing of microorganisms needs for further studies because of a high variability depending upon used frequency and energy. It is not known, for example, if destruction of microorganisms by ultrasounds is related to a phenomenon of cavitation or thermal energy. Nevertheless, even a range of frequency and energy used in commercial microwave ovens kills vegetative cells of coliform rods in about 15 minutes.  

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