From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 [gcide]:
3. (Microbiology, Medicine) To destroy all spores or germs in (an organic fluid or mixture) or on (a medical instrument), as by heat, so as to prevent contamination by bacteria or other organisms. A common method of sterilization in laboratories and medical facilities is to heat a liquid sample or an instrument in an autoclave. [1913 Webster +PJC]
From WordNet (r) 3.0 (2006) [wn]:
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