A spore is a reproductive cell produced by certain fungi, plants (moss, ferns), and some bacteria.
Certain bacteria make spores as a way to defend themselves. Bacterial spores have thick walls. They can resist high temperatures, humidity, and other environmental conditions.
The bacteria Clostridia form spores. These spores create the living bacteria that cause gas gangrene and antibiotic-associated colitis.
Chemical disinfectants can kill bacteria, but 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.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.