An agens is an active agent, an active substance or a pathogenic factor. In gas-plasma sterilisation, the agent is the process gas that is stimulated to form a plasma by the application of energy. During pre-treatment it is air and in the process hydrogen peroxide vapour.
The physical plasma is a mixture of charged components, electrons and ions. This means that a plasma contains free charge carriers (radicals). Since the plasma state can be created from the gaseous state of aggregation by adding further energy, it is often referred to as the fourth state of aggregation. If sufficient energy is added to a gas, the atomic shells break open and electrons are released. The electrons are accelerated and break more atomic shells.
The positive ions of the gas are highly reactive and immediately try to fill the bond released by the electron. During sterilisation, this effect can be used because reactions with microorganisms also take place.
Radicals or also called free radicals are primarily molecules, ions or atoms with an unpaired electron. They are highly reactive and also attack existing molecular compounds. Thus, they support the sterilisation process by damaging cell walls and components of the genetic material of microorganisms.
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According to the GefStoffV and the TRGS, there are no restrictions on the use of hydrogen peroxide plasma sterilisers. Consequently, both thermolabile and thermostable instruments may be sterilised with this method.
Sterilisation, sterilisation and sterilisation are processes by which materials and objects are freed from living microorganisms including their resting stages (e.g. spores). The state of the materials and objects thus achieved is referred to as "sterile".
The term "germ-free", which is also used instead of "sterile", is incorrect because sterilisation does not only involve the removal or killing of certain developmental stages of microorganisms, namely germs, but the removal or killing of all microorganisms in every developmental stage. The term "germ-free" is related to the misnomer "germ" for microorganisms in every stage of development.
Sterilisation of materials (e.g. food, pharmaceuticals, solutions), medical instruments, implants, objects, packaging, devices (e.g. endoscopes) and vessels (e.g. for the culture of microorganisms) (ideally) kills all microorganisms contained or adhering to them, including their permanent forms (for example spores), and destroys viruses, prions (infectious proteins), plasmids and other DNA fragments.
In practice, complete sterilisation does not succeed with 100% certainty. Therefore, a reduction of the number of microorganisms capable of multiplication by a factor determined according to the area of application (in powers of ten) or a certain probability of complete sterilisation is required. For example, it is required that the residual content of reproducible microorganisms in a unit of the sterilisation material is at most 10', i.e.: only one reproducible microorganism may be contained in one million equally treated units of the sterilisation material.
Sterilisation is carried out by physical (thermal, irradiation) or chemical processes. In the technical distinction from disinfection, sterilisation usually requires a probability of complete sterilisation that is one power of ten higher.