Clinical solid waste (CSW) poses a challenge to health care facilities because of the presence of pathogenic microorganisms, leading to concerns in the effective sterilization of the CSW for safe handling and elimination of infectious disease transmission. In the present study, supercritical carbon dioxide (SC-CO2) was applied to inactivate gram-positive Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Bacillus subtilis, and gram-negative Escherichia coli in CSW. The effects of SC-CO2 sterilization parameters such as pressure, temperature, and time were investigated and optimized by response surface methodology (RSM). Results showed that the data were adequately fitted into the second-order polynomial model. The linear quadratic terms and interaction between pressure and temperature had significant effects on the inactivation of S. aureus, E. coli, E. faecalis, and B. subtilis in CSW. Optimum conditions for the complete inactivation of bacteria within the experimental range of the studied variables were 20 MPa, 60 °C, and 60 min. The SC-CO2-treated bacterial cells, observed under a scanning electron microscope, showed morphological changes, including cell breakage and dislodged cell walls, which could have caused the inactivation. This espouses the inference that SC-CO2 exerts strong inactivating effects on the bacteria present in CSW, and has the potential to be used in CSW management for the safe handling and recycling-reuse of CSW materials.
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