By Geoffrey A. Taylor
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In this respect it provides a good defence against invasion. Most bacteria entering the body via the skin must do so through a breach in the surface or through skin which has been in some way damaged perhaps by prolonged pressure or friction. Some micro-organisms, for example the causative organism of syphilis, can probably pass into the body by the intact healthy skin. The body tissues may also actively kill bacteria. The skin secretes substances which will very rapidly destroy some species of micro-organisms.
Are damaged and to sterilise such objects other methods must be used. Moist heat sterilisation may be carried out in several ways. The simplest method is boiling. Boiling water at 100°C kills bacteria very quickly but does not kill all bacterial spores even if boiling is continued for several hours. It cannot therefore be said to be a reliable sterilising method. It is however commonly used because it requires only simple inexpensive apparatus and it is quick. It should be realised that boiling an object does not sterilise it and that the method should only be used if alternative sterilising methods are not available.
It is important that the steam supply does not contain free water as this also reduces the efficiency. Again, in order to kill micro-organisms the steam must actually reach them. If a dressing drum is packed very tightly, steam may not be able to reach the centre of the drum and the result will be unsterile dressings. If assembled glass syringes are treated by autoclaving, the steam will not penetrate into the thin space between the barrel and the plunger. The syringe will not be sterilised. If syringes and other similar pieces of equipment are to be sterilised by autoclaving, they must first be disassembled.