A spore is a cell that certain fungi, plants (moss, ferns), and bacteria produce. Spores are involved in reproduction.
Certain bacteria make spores as a way to defend themselves. Spores have thick walls. They can resist high temperatures, humidity, and other environmental conditions.
The bacteria Clostridia form spores. These spores create the bacteria that cause a rare condition called gas gangrene and a type of colitis that is linked to use of antibiotics.
Chemical disinfectants can kill bacteria, but they do not destroy their spores.
A process called sterilization destroys spores and bacteria. It is done at high temperature and under high pressure. In health care settings, sterilization of instruments is usually done using a machine called an autoclave.
Gerding DN, Johnson S. Clostridial infections. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2020:chap 280.
Statler VA, Bryant KA. Antibiotic-associated colitis. In: Cherry JD, Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL, Steinbach WJ, Hotez PJ, eds. Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 45.
Review Date 9/1/2021
Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.