In TOS (for example) you see Kirk, Spock & co. appear to go straight to the transporter, say from the bridge. Should we assume that they go through some sterilization process before being transported but which is not shown for continuity purposes? Or is everything and everybody on the starship in a germ free state?

In the episode "The Apple" the crew beam down to a paradise planet with innocent beings and it would be possible to introduce a disease unknowingly which could wipe them out.

Obviously, in an emergency it may not be possible to have the time but would it be standard procedure?

  • I thought by the TOS era a vast majority of the communicable diseases had either been wiped out?
    – Monty129
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 11:35
  • 2
    @Monty129 That is up in the air I think. In TNG Wesley didn't even know what the common cold was, and Doctor Crusher said it had been eradicated in the past. But then in VOY Tom Paris recounts how he had gotten the cold when he was younger.
    – Xantec
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 12:05
  • 2
    There is no such thing as a germ-free human.
    – bitmask
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 12:28
  • How else would it be possible for the Federation to have so many different biologies in close proximity
    – Monty129
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 12:39
  • 5
    Safer for all the space-bunnies if Kirk did get sterilized. Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 15:41

2 Answers 2


There was no need by the TOS era. Transporters were equipped with biofilters:

Biofilters were uniformly used on all Federation transporters by the 24th century. These filters functioned to decontaminate transported objects and prevent harmful substances, pathogens, and even certain forms of radiation (including theta radiation), from contaminating the rest of the ship. This process replaced earlier systems that required the subject to be fully rematerialized on the transport platform before applying an energy-based process to topically decontaminate the transportee. (VOY: "Macrocosm", "Night", TOS: "The Naked Time")

While the Memory Alpha page on biofilters says it only worked in incoming matter streams, I know of no particular reason it couldn't work on outgoing ones as well.

ENT-era, there was no reason given (since I don't think the biofilters existed at the time), but it did have a decontamination chamber.

  • There are a ton of bacteria (eg. E.Coli) that are both pathogens are necessary for survival. Hopefully the biofilter knows which strains to kill and which not to? Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 18:33
  • @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft Yeah, it was mentioned once or twice that they take the "blacklist" approach: Only known substances are automatically removed by the bio-filters, and I think I remember one time it wouldn't transport someone with unknown bacteria/something onto the ship in TNG (although I could be imagining that part).
    – Izkata
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 18:40
  • @Izkata Didn't know about biofilters. Makes sense.
    – camden_kid
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 9:52

I don't recall if it was ever addressed in TOS, but I know that in TNG, they did make mention of the fact that the transporter technology had bio-filters which would somehow filter out harmful bacteria and viruses (as long as it was one they were familiar with).

However, in the episode The Mark of Gideon in the third season, Kirk goes through the transporter into an empty duplicate Enterprise on an overcrowded planet where people no longer die and eventually learns that the native government plans to use the diseases in his blood in order to introduce death and fix overcrowding. So even if biofilters existed in TOS times, they don't remove everything.

Either way, it is a big plot hole from a protecting the native population standpoint.

  • 2
    Maybe Kirk reprogrammed the biofilter so his embarrassing disease wouldn't show up. :-)
    – camden_kid
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 15:56

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