Is there anything that can survive in an autoclave steam steriliser?


The autoclave steam steriliser is an important piece of equipment that is widely used in many areas such as the medical and industrial sectors. Its efficient form of sterilisation makes it a reliable tool for the safe purification of a wide range of instruments.
The autoclave is designed to kill germs, bacteria and spores. It is a powerful sterilisation equipment as it uses steam at set pressure and temperature levels to kill all different kinds of microorganisms.

However, can anything survive in an autoclave?

How autoclaves work?

Before we try to understand what can or cannot be sterilised in an autoclave, it is important to understand the autoclave process and why it works so well.
Autoclaves use steam set to a high level of heat and pressure for a set period of time. They heat objects above their boiling point and create a low pressure environment. By doing this, they are able to kill various types of bacteria, germs and spores that cannot be killed with strong detergents and boiling water.
So, why steam? Steam is known to be a powerful agent for killing harmful microorganisms. Moist heat is a better heat transfer agent than dry heat, which makes the sterilisation process more effective.

Is there a limit to what the autoclave steam steriliser can kill?

The short answer: No. Autoclaves can kill all types of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and even spores, which are known to survive at high temperatures and can only be killed at temperatures around 130°C.

The advantage of the medical steam sterilizer is that you can freely control the heat and pressure levels to thoroughly sterilise the instrument and ensure that it is free of all harmful micro-organisms, especially those that cannot be killed by normal methods.
This is why autoclaves are widely used, especially in the medical field instead of microwave ovens. They are able to distribute high power energy evenly to eliminate different types of contaminants.
Although some studies are investigating whether there are types of bacteria that cannot be autoclaved, so far there are no known pathogens (infectious agents) that cannot be killed by an autoclave.

How long will an item remain sterile?

Although the autoclave steam steriliser can kill any type of microorganism, maintenance is an important factor to remember. Maintenance will ensure that the instruments you have just autoclaved are not re-contaminated with harmful and infectious materials. After autoclaving instruments, it is important to ensure that they are stored properly and kept in a safe place. When packing them, make sure that the packaging is free from any structural defects such as holes, scratches or openings, as this can make the instruments vulnerable to contamination. It is also important to note the expiry date of the packaging. Some packages will indicate when they must be replaced and how long they have a shelf life.
Usually they will last for a year before they can be changed again.
It is also important to maintain optimal storage conditions so that your freshly autoclaved instruments do not become contaminated again. However, it is also important to be aware of transport conditions and frequency of handling. Make sure that the environment of the instrument, once contained, does not jeopardise the hygiene of the instrument.

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There is no doubt that autoclaves are considered to be one of the most effective and reliable methods for the complete sterilisation of any instrument. The utilisation of steam or moist heat generates more heat and energy which can be easily transferred through the object. This method heats the object above its boiling point and can kill stubborn micro-organisms such as spores that cannot be killed by ordinary boiling water alone. Thus, an autoclave is capable of killing any microorganism. To date, no microorganisms are known to survive autoclaving. However, it is important to store instruments correctly after autoclaving so that they are not exposed to microorganisms. After all, it’s only sterilised! Make sure that the instrument is contained in a clean environment and that its storage conditions protect it from harmful substances in the environment.

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