How does oxidation kill bacteria?

1 Answer
Aug 18, 2016

By damaging important molecules of the bacteria.


Oxidation is the process in which an electron is taken away from a molecule. Taking away electrons disrupts important cellular structures of bacteria.

  • Oxidation can disrupt the cell wall of bacteria: the membrane stops functioning, no transport of molecules is possible. Also, the barrier can break and important constituents can leak out of the cell.
  • Oxidation can also affect all structures inside the cell such as important enzymes and DNA.

Some damage caused by oxidation can sometimes be repaired by cells, but when there is too much oxidative damage, the cell / bacterium will die.

Chlorine in water is such an oxidative agent that is used to kill bacteria. Humans have special immune cells (macrophages) that use oxidation to kill bacteria.