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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 temperatures and under high pressures. In health care settings, sterilization is usually done using a device called an autoclave.


Gerding DN, Johnson S. Clostridial infections. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 296.

Schmucker R, Bryant K. Antibiotic-associated colitis. In: Cherry JD, Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL, Steinbach WJ, Hotez PJ, eds. Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 45.

Review Date 9/27/2017

Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant 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.