The use of true gas plasmas for the inactivation of microorganisms is an area of dynamic research. Many types of gases are used as a source of plasma, and different plasma production methods have been applied. The antimicrobial mechanisms of oxygen-based gas plasmas may be due to an etching effect on microbial structures, particularly bacterial endospores resulting in shrinkage. By contrast, the definite mechanisms of actions of other gas plasma sources, such as N2, He, Ne, Ar and Xe gases, have not been clearly defined and indeed may be distinct. The speculated mechanisms of these gas plasmas involve the direct attack of metastable (excited molecular), UV and/or VUV to microbial structures, specifically the inner membrane and DNA in the core of bacterial endospores. According to this speculation, sterilized spore figures would remain unchanged. However, these mechanisms remain to be clarified.
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