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The spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria poses a significant threat to human health. Plasma activated liquids (PAL) could be a promising alternative for microbial decontamination, where different PAL can possess diverse antimicrobial efficacies and cytotoxic profiles, depending on the range and concentration of their reactive chemical species. In this research, the biological activity of plasma activated water (PAW) on different biological targets including both microbiological and mammalian cells was investigated in vitro. The aim was to further an understanding of the specific role of distinct plasma reactive species, which is required to tailor plasma activated liquids for use in applications where high antimicrobial activity is required without adversely affecting the biology of eukaryotic cells. PAW was generated by glow and spark discharges, which provide selective generation of hydrogen peroxide, nitrite and nitrate in the liquid. The PAW made by either spark or glow discharges showed similar antimicrobial efficacy and stability of activity, despite the very different reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species profiles (RNS). However, different trends were observed for cytotoxic activities and effects on enzyme function, which were translated through the selective chemical species generation. These findings indicate very distinct mechanisms of action which may be exploited when tailoring plasma activated liquids to various applications. A remarkable stability to heat and pressure was noted for PAW generated with this set up, which broadens the application potential. These features also suggest that post plasma modifications and post generation stability can be harnessed as a further means of modulating the chemistry, activity and mode of delivery of plasma functionalised liquids. Overall, these results further understanding on how PAL generation may be tuned to provide candidate disinfectant agents for biomedical application or for bio-decontamination in diverse areas.