I used to know a word which has now evaporated from my brain and I hope this community can return it to me. The word is used in medical or forensic contexts and describes practices which ensure that diseases are not spread, that samples of infected tissue do not release their pathogens, that proper hygiene is observed or (in the context of forensics) that evidence is not contaminated in a way that would invalidate it.

"Hygiene" is not the word I am looking for. Hygiene is only one aspect of it.

I want to retrieve the word because I work in Software Engineering and often have to advise on security issues or best practice, where I believe this term would be useful.

closed as too broad by anongoodnurse, tchrist, Drew, user66974, Rory Alsop Nov 12 '14 at 19:03

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    Asepsis? : The process of removing pathogenic microorganisms or protecting against infection by such organisms. – user66974 Nov 7 '14 at 11:04
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    Don't say when anyone has guessed it. It's more fun that way :) – Mari-Lou A Nov 7 '14 at 11:19
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    The reason kids who grow up on farms lead healthier adult lives, I feel certain is due to the filth to which they were exposed in childhood. Hygiene can be self-defeating. Remember the bugs are in charge! – WS2 Nov 7 '14 at 13:14
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    There are lots of answers to this. In medicine we follow protocols (which differ with each situation: hazmat protocol, isolation protocol, body fluids protocol, etc - there's not a single word that I can think of - and we also follow chain-of-custody protocols for legal issues, e.g. blood alcohols, etc. – anongoodnurse Nov 7 '14 at 20:34
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    @WS2 - Yes, the rise in sanitation is believed by a number of authorities to have led to the polio epidemic in the mid 20th century. Of course, it also helped wipe out TB, dysentery, cholera, et al. Sometimes there's no good answer. – Hot Licks Nov 7 '14 at 23:12

10 Answers 10


One specific procedure used often in medical and police dramas is quarantine (aka isolation).

More generally, an adverb to describe such procedures as a class is sanitary (or sanitation).


How about prophylaxis?

Treatment given or action taken to prevent disease

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    Prophylaxis is preventative, but it doesn't really convey the notion of maintaining separation. Taking aspirin regularly as a way to reduce risk of heart disease is prophylactic, but it doesn't imply any sort of isolation, sterilization, or cleaning. – barbecue Nov 8 '14 at 17:02

Are you thinking of containment or biocontainment?

So that evidence does not become tainted, there are strict chain-of-custody protocols.

  • If not Containment then perhaps Preservation? – Joe Dark Nov 7 '14 at 12:26
  • Maybe adding a link, or supplying a brief description would help. I know I had to look up chain-of-custody protocol! – Mari-Lou A Nov 7 '14 at 21:24
  • My skull has not yet been assigned a url. :-) – TRomano Nov 7 '14 at 22:50

Perhaps aseptic?

Some drug and medical device manufacturing processes use aseptic filling processes (sterile bottles, controlled cleanrooms, etc.) to make sterile product when the final product can't be sterilized by gamma radiation or other common methods.

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    When medical and pharmaceutical people are drawing up medications into syringes, performing invasive procedures, or working with either sterile or potentially contaminated things, they follow procedures to PREVENT contamination by avoiding specific types of contact, maintaining minimum distances, using sterilized equipment and supplies, etc. This is referred to as "aseptic technique." – barbecue Nov 8 '14 at 16:57

Antisepsis is defined as prevention of infection by inhibiting the growth of pathogenic >microorganisms.

Asepsis means a condition in which living pathogenic organisms (i.e. infectious agents) >are absent.


When I took microbiology we always referred to it as antiseptic technique. I suspect aseptic technique is used in scenarios with clean rooms.



Sterilization (or sterilisation) is a term referring to any process that eliminates (removes) or kills all forms of life, including transmissible agents (such as fungi, bacteria, viruses, spore forms, etc.) present on a surface, contained in a fluid, in medication, or in a compound such as biological culture media

Basic Cleanroom Protocol

Yes. Most basic protocol programs for cleanrooms are based on the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (IEST) recommended practices for contamination control and the ISO 14644 series of international standards for cleanrooms and associated controlled environments. The focus of any protocol program is to protect the integrity of the cleanroom and the products and processes in the cleanroom from the people working in the cleanroom. Whereas contamination may be due to the product, processes, or equipment in the clean-room, the people working in the cleanroom exercise the greatest control over the cause of and elimination of contamination.

  • I'm not there am I...? But it fits with software, viruses etc. – Mari-Lou A Nov 7 '14 at 11:31

Universal Precautions is a protocol governing all handling and interaction with potentially infectious material. The specific applications cover all scenarios where contact with bodily fluids is a possibility.

{ Technically this has been replaced by the "Standard Precautions" protocol (capital S, capital P) but outside of the core medical community we commonly see Standard Precautions concepts being applied and taught under the name "Universal".}When teaching this protocol in the past I've explained the core concept as "Treating all potential contaminants as if you KNOW they are infectious and WILL kill you".

However this applies only in terms of avoiding infection. Although the actions dictated may help to prevent sample contamination, that is not the purpose that it is designed for


I tried to think of other terms that would apply to either medicine or software viruses.

Several antivirus providers will quarantine viruses. (Already mentioned, but providing a link.)

If you're still attached to the infected tissue, the doctor may cauterize using an electrocautery.

Here is a link to a company that will destroy biological samples or dispose of them.

(I like sterilize and containment, both used elsewhere.)


I think the most encompassing word for this topic is decontamination. It even covers some of the answers given so far.

[I'm surprised no one mentioned before. But yes, as OP mentioned contamination already, it seems like it might be less likely that he is looking for an obvious opposite. In the end, the term fits perfectly.]

Decontamination is the process of cleansing an object or substance to remove contaminants such as micro-organisms or hazardous materials, including chemicals, radioactive substances, and infectious diseases. Decontamination is sometimes abbreviated as "decon", "dcon" or "decontam".

The purpose of decontamination is to prevent the spread of micro-organisms and other contaminants that may threaten the health of human beings or animals or damage the environment.

Decontamination is most commonly used in medical environments, including dentistry, surgery and veterinary science, in the process of food preparation, in environmental science and in forensic science.

Methods of decontamination include:

  • Physical cleaning
  • Water purification
  • Ultrasonic cleaning
  • Disinfection
  • Antisepsis
  • Sterilization

(highlighted the keywords that you mentioned in the question)

Also, there is a term called clean technique for laboratory decontamination procedures.

Clean techniques refer to laboratory practices employed to reduce the risk of contamination. Clean techniques are employed in the forensic DNA laboratory to prevent the transfer of DNA from analyst to sample, environment to sample, and cross-contamination between samples. Contamination can adversely effect the outcome of a case; therefore, it is essential that the laboratory have procedures in place to limit, recognize, and address contamination.


  • Even, CDC has decontamination procedures: cdc.gov/niosh/pdfs/95-123-d.pdf – ermanen Nov 8 '14 at 1:36
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    Decontamination implies that contamination has already occurred and you are trying to mitigate it or clean it up. Clean technique is better, because it implies prevention and avoiding, rather than mopping up after the fact. – barbecue Nov 8 '14 at 17:06
  • @barbecue: Not necessarily. Decontamination covers prevention too. – ermanen Nov 9 '14 at 0:26

A medical term for an area or region which is maintained free of microorganisms for purposes of protecting the patient is Sterile Field. Creating and maintaining a sterile field involves initial sterilization to create the field, and use of aseptic techniques (clean room methods) to maintain the sterility over time.

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