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see decay of organic matterdecay of organic matter
or putrefaction,
process whereby heterotrophic organisms, including some bacteria, fungi, saprophytic plants, and lower animals, utilize the remains of once-living tissue as a source of nutrition.
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the decomposition of complex nitrogen-containing organic compounds (primarily proteins) caused by the action of putrefactive microorganisms. Because putrefaction is accompanied primarily by the evolution of gaseous ammonia, putrefaction is also called ammonification, and the microorganisms involved in the process are called ammonifiers. Putrefaction is a complex, multistep biochemical process. It develops in various ways and has various results, depending on the chemical nature of the substrate, the availability of oxygen, and on the microfloral composition. Specific groups of microbes prevail at various stages of putrefaction.

Among the putrefactive microorganisms the most important are anaerobes and facultative anaerobes, which contain powerful proteolytic enzymes, as well as aerobic sporogenous bacteria of the genus Bacillus and nonsporogenous bacteria of the genus Pseudomonas. Mold fungi are also involved in putrefaction, but the role of actinomycetes is insignificant. The majority of putrefactive bacteria are saprophytes, some of which are capable of hydrolyzing live tissues, giving rise to various diseases (for example, gas gangrene in animals and humans and soft rots of plants).

Putrefaction plays an important role in the cycle of materials in nature. The life activity and death of animals causes a large amount of protein-containing products to enter the soil and bodies of water. These products are not accumulated because of the activity of putrefactive microflora but are mineralized. Thus, they may be used again by plants. By means of proteolytic enzymes (proteases and peptidases), putrefactive bacteria degrade proteins to polypeptides and then to amino acids, which undergo deamination and decarboxylation by the action of many microorganisms. Deamination results in the evolution of gaseous ammonia and the formation of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids and aromatic acids, as well as ketonic and hydroxy acids. Decarboxylation generates amines, many of which are very toxic. The amino acid radicals that are generated as a result of deamination and decarboxylation are further degraded. Thus, tryptophan forms skatole and indole, and the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine form hydrogen sulfide. Fatty acids may ferment, evolving methane. Putrefaction in the absence of air involves predominantly reductive processes and the accumulation of many of the above-mentioned products. Free access to air allows completion of the process of putrefaction, all the carbon from the organic compounds being evolved in the form of carbon dioxide.

Putrefaction occurs in the intestinal tracts of animals as well as in soil and bodies of water. This is caused by anaerobes— Bacillus putrificus, B. perfringens, and B. sporogenes. The products of putrefaction are rendered harmless by the liver and are partly eliminated by the kidneys. In cases of constipation and obstructions of the intestinal tract poisoning may occur as a result of excessive absorption of the products of putrefaction. Lactic acid bacteria inhibit the putrefactive microflora of the intestinal tract.

Putrefactive bacteria cause food spoilage. In order to preserve foods from putrefaction, sterilization, pickling, smoking, freezing, and other techniques are used. However, putrefactive bacteria include sporogenous, halophilic, and psychrophilic forms that cause spoilage of pickled or frozen foods. Some industrial processes (removal of hair from animal skins, tanning of hides, and chemical cleaning of clothing) use enzyme preparations obtained from cultures of putrefactive microorganisms.


Ierusalimskii, N. D. Osnovy fiziologii mikrobov. Moscow, 1963.
Metabolizm bakterii. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from English.)
Rabotnova, I. L. Obshchaia mikrobiologia. Moscow, 1966.



Decomposition of organic matter, particularly the anaerobic breakdown of proteins by bacteria, with the production of foul-smelling compounds.
References in periodicals archive ?
The putrefaction gas pressures measured were only 0.
HgS and other minerals such as arsenic act as preservatives by delaying the putrefaction process.
They examined marinated meat in seven of the 24 registered butchers in the town and found five of the samples showed the first signs of putrefaction.
One may see from Paracelsus's focus on the putrefaction of substances (or on their "digestion," as he calls it in the second passage), that the real focus for him is control of the process of spontaneous generation.
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But then, what really makes Wells's novel stick is that amazing ending in which Earth is not saved by mankind but by the bacteria that causes putrefaction and for which the Martians have no resistance.
Morris was always prompted by a sense of moral outrage (and not necessarily to agreeable effect--think of the Romantic, John Martin-like vistas of hurricane, pestilence, holocaust, and putrefaction typical of his work from the early '80s; too message-y for sure but unflinchingly sincere).
Interferences, including lipid-caused turbidity, MetHb, sulfhemoglobin, microcoagulates, putrefaction, and contamination, have called into question the accuracy of COHb measurements obtained by COoximetry.
Today they look rather repulsive, soggy and rotten, as a voracious, recently discovered bacterium speeds up the inevitable process of putrefaction.
He searched for three words: "gnicie" meaning decayed, putrefaction or rot; "rozpad-gnilny" (decay or putrefaction) and "saprofity", referring to creatures that eat dead organisms.
Stage 2, the putrefaction (tissue liquefaction) or bloat stage, occurs about four to ten days after death.
Petersen & Matthews (1984) using Muscidifurax zaraptor Kogan and Legner theorized that reduced suitability of previously frozen house fly pupae as hosts (over 96 h thawed) was due to desiccation rather than putrefaction of the host.