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Chapter 12 : Sterilization, Disinfection, and other Techniques
One of the main missions of the Imperial Health Office was public health, and Robert Koch and his associates set to work enthusiastically to place various public health practices on a rational basis. Among the most important tasks was the development of methods for sterilization and disinfection. An important consideration in this discussion is the distinction between sterilization, which involves the complete killing of both spores and vegetative cells, and disinfection, in which vegetative cells are killed but spores are not necessarily all killed. Koch’s studies provided the groundwork for subsequent research on chemical disinfection. Koch’s work on chemical sterilization was important not only because it led to the discovery of new and more effective antiseptics and disinfectants, but because it provided a precise and reproducible method for studying the whole disinfection process. The practical application of heat sterilization to bacteriological technique was worked out by Robert Koch and his associates at the Imperial Health Office. The procedures for the experiments with heat could be simpler than those for chemical disinfection, since the agent did not have to be removed after treatment. After cooling, the cultures were transferred to suitable media and their viabilities determined by incubation.