An Introduction to Microbiology for Nurses by N. A. Simmons

By N. A. Simmons

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If infection is to be avoided, objects such as syringes, needles, surgical instruments and substances which are to be injected, must not carry bacteria into the patient. W o u n d dressings and other materials which come into contact with vulnerable tissues must be safe and free from living organisms. T o this end such objects are treated so as to STERILISE them. Sterilisation is defined as the freeing of an article of all micro-organisms. Disinfection is the destruction of pathogenic micro-organisms, but not necessarily spores.

In the treatment of infections, substances k n o w n as antibiotics and antibacterial agents are used. These are considered under the heading antibacterial therapy. T h e methods used to sterilise inanimate objects are conveniently 50 Microbiology for Nurses divided into chemical and physical types, and they are discussed under these headings. CHEMICAL STERILISATION Very many different substances have been used as chemical sterilising agents. This was especially so in the days before antibiotics, when considerable effort was directed to try to obtain substances which would destroy bacteria in infective processes without damaging the tissues.

Prepacked dressings and sets of instruments are n o w generally processed in bulk in Central Sterile Supply Departments from which they are delivered to hospital wards and departments. L I G H T , though bactericidal, is not a very useful sterilising agent. It has been found that direct sunlight will kill bacteria and that the portion of light responsible for this activity is the ultra-violet part of the spect r u m . T h e disadvantages of ultra-violet sterilisation are its lack of penetration and the ease with which it is absorbed by such materials as glass.

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