Disinfectants are those chemicals that destroy pathogenic bacteria from inanimate surfaces. Some chemical have very narrow spectrum of activity and some have very wide. Those chemicals that can sterilize are called chemisterilants. Those chemicals that can be safely applied over skin and mucus membranes are called antiseptics.
Mode of action: Alcohols dehydrate cells, disrupt membranes and cause coagulation of protein.
Examples: Ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol and methyl alcohol
Application: A 70% aqueous solution is more effective at killing microbes than absolute alcohols. 70% ethyl alcohol (spirit) is used as antiseptic on skin. Isopropyl alcohol is preferred to ethanol. It can also be used to disinfect surfaces. It is used to disinfect clinical thermometers. Methyl alcohol kills fungal spores, hence is useful in disinfecting inoculation hoods.
Disadvantages: Skin irritant, volatile (evaporates rapidly), inflammable
Mode of action: Acts through alkylation of amino-, carboxyl- or hydroxyl group, and probably damages nucleic acids. It kills all microorganisms, including spores.
Examples: Formaldehyde, Gluteraldehyde
Application: 40% Formaldehyde (formalin) is used for surface disinfection and fumigation of rooms, chambers, operation theatres, biological safety cabinets, wards, sick rooms etc. Fumigation is achieved by boiling formalin, heating paraformaldehyde or treating formalin with potassium permanganate. It also sterilizes bedding, furniture and books. 10% formalin with 0.5% tetraborate sterilizes clean metal instruments. 2% gluteraldehyde is used to sterilize thermometers, cystoscopes, bronchoscopes, centrifuges, anasethetic equipments etc. An exposure of at least 3 hours at alkaline pH is required for action by gluteraldehyde. 2% formaldehyde at 40oC for 20 minutes is used to disinfect wool and 0.25% at 60oC for six hours to disinfect animal hair and bristles.
Disadvantages: Vapors are irritating (must be neutralized by ammonia), has poor penetration, leaves non-volatile residue, activity is reduced in the presence of protein. Gluteraldehyde requires alkaline pH and only those articles that are wettable can be sterilized.
Mode of action: Act by disruption of membranes, precipitation of proteins and inactivation of enzymes.
Examples: 5% phenol, 1-5% Cresol, 5% Lysol (a saponified cresol), hexachlorophene, chlorhexidine, chloroxylenol (Dettol)
Applications: Joseph Lister used it to prevent infection of surgical wounds. Phenols are coal-tar derivatives. They act as disinfectants at high concentration and as antiseptics at low concentrations. They are bactericidal, fungicidal, mycobactericidal but are inactive against spores and most viruses. They are not readily inactivated by organic matter. The corrosive phenolics are used for disinfection of ward floors, in discarding jars in laboratories and disinfection of bedpans. Chlorhexidine can be used in an isopropanol solution for skin disinfection, or as an aqueous solution for wound irrigation. It is often used as an antiseptic hand wash. 20% Chlorhexidine gluconate solution is used for pre-operative hand and skin preparation and for general skin disinfection. Chlorhexidine gluconate is also mixed with quaternary ammonium compounds such as cetrimide to get stronger and broader antimicrobial effects (eg. Savlon). Chloroxylenols are less irritant and can be used for topical purposes and are more effective against gram positive bacteria than gram negative bacteria. Hexachlorophene is chlorinated diphenyl and is much less irritant. It has marked effect over gram positive bacteria but poor effect over gram negative bacteria, mycobacteria, fungi and viruses. Triclosan is an organic phenyl ether with good activity against gram positive bacteria and effective to some extent against many gram negative bacteria including Pseudomonas. It also has fair activity on fungi and viruses.
Disadvantages: It is toxic, corrosive and skin irritant. Chlorhexidine is inactivated by anionic soaps. Chloroxylenol is inactivated by hard water.
Mode of action: They are oxidizing agents and cause damage by oxidation of essential sulfydryl groups of enzymes. Chlorine reacts with water to form hypochlorous acid, which is microbicidal.
Examples: Chlorine compounds (chlorine, bleach, hypochlorite) and iodine compounds (tincture iodine, iodophores)
Applications: Tincture of iodine (2% iodine in 70% alcohol) is an antiseptic. Iodine can be combined with neutral carrier polymers such as polyvinylpyrrolidone to prepare iodophores such as povidone-iodine. Iodophores permit slow release and reduce the irritation of the antiseptic. For hand washing iodophores are diluted in 50% alcohol. 10% Povidone Iodine is used undiluted in pre and postoperative skin disinfection. Chlorine gas is used to bleach water. Household bleach can be used to disinfect floors. Household bleach used in a stock dilution of 1:10. In higher concentrations chlorine is used to disinfect swimming pools. 0.5% sodium hypochlorite is used in serology and virology. Used at a dilution of 1:10 in econtamination of spillage of infectious material. Mercuric chloride is used as a disinfectant.
Disadvantages: They are rapidly inactivated in the presence of organic matter. Iodine is corrosive and staining. Bleach solution is corrosive and will corrode stainless steel surfaces.
Mode of action: Act by precipitation of proteins and oxidation of sulfydryl groups. They are bacteriostatic.
Examples: Mercuric chloride, silver nitrate, copper sulfate, organic mercury salts (e.g., mercurochrome, merthiolate)
Applications: 1% silver nitrate solution can be applied on eyes as treatment for opthalmia neonatorum (Crede’s method). This procedure is no longer followed. Silver sulphadiazine is used topically to help to prevent colonization and infection of burn tissues. Mercurials are active against viruses at dilution of 1:500 to 1:1000. Merthiolate at a concentration of 1:10000 is used in preservation of serum. Copper salts are used as a fungicide.
Disadvantages: Mercuric chloride is highly toxic, are readily inactivated by organic matter.
SURFACE ACTIVE AGENTS:
Mode of actions: They have the property of concentrating at interfaces between lipid containing membrane of bacterial cell and surrounding aqueous medium. These compounds have long chain hydrocarbons that are fat soluble and charged ions that are water-soluble. Since they contain both of these, they concentrate on the surface of membranes. They disrupt membrane resulting in leakage of cell constituents.
Examples: These are soaps or detergents. Detergents can be anionic or cationic. Detergents containing negatively charged long chain hydrocarbon are called anionic detergents. These include soaps and bile salts. If the fat-soluble part is made to have a positive charge by combining with a quaternary nitrogen atom, it is called cationic detergents. Cationic detergents are known as quaternary ammonium compounds (or quat). Cetrimide and benzalkonium chloride act as cationic detergents.
Application: They are active against vegetative cells, Mycobacteria and enveloped viruses. They are widely used as disinfectants at dilution of 1-2% for domestic use and in hospitals.
Disadvantages: Their activity is reduced by hard water, anionic detergents and organic matter. Pseudomonas can metabolise cetrimide, using them as a carbon, nitrogen and energy source.
Mode of action: Acridine dyes are bactericidal because of their interaction with bacterial nucleic acids.
Examples: Aniline dyes such as crystal violet, malachite green and brilliant green. Acridine dyes such as acriflavin and aminacrine. Acriflavine is a mixture of proflavine and euflavine. Only euflavine has effective antimicrobial properties. A related dye, ethidium bromide, is also germicidal. It intercalates between base pairs in DNA. They are more effective against gram positive bacteria than gram negative bacteria and are more bacteriostatic in action.
Applications: They may be used topically as antiseptics to treat mild burns.
They are used as paint on the skin to treat bacterial skin infections. The dyes are used as selective agents in certain selective media.
HYDROGEN PEROXIDE (H2O2)
Mode of action: It acts on the microorganisms through its release of nascent oxygen. Hydrogen peroxide produces hydroxyl-free radical that damages proteins and DNA.
Application: It is used at 6% concentration to decontaminate the instruments, equipments such as ventilators. 3% Hydrogen Peroxide Solution is used for skin disinfection and deodorising wounds and ulcers. Strong solutions are sporicidal.
Disadvantages: Decomposes in light, broken down by catalase, proteinaceous organic matter drastically reduces its activity.
Mode of action: It is an alkylating agent. It acts by alkylating sulfydryl-, amino-, carboxyl- and hydroxyl- groups.
Properties: It is a cyclic molecule, which is a colorless liquid at room temperature. It has a sweet ethereal odor, readily polymerizes and is flammable.
Application: It is a highly effective chemisterilant, capable of killing spores rapidly. Since it is highly flammable, it is usually combined with CO2 (10% CO2+ 90% EO) or dichlorodifluoromethane. It requires presence of humidity. It has good penetration and is well absorbed by porous material. It is used to sterilize heat labile articles such as bedding, textiles, rubber, plastics, syringes, disposable petri dishes, complex apparatus like heart-lung machine, respiratory and dental equipments.
Efficiency testing is done using Bacillus subtilis var niger.
Disadvantages: It is highly toxic, irritating to eyes, skin, highly flammable, mutagenic and carcinogenic.
Mode of action: It is an alkylating agent and acts through alkylation of carboxyl- and hydroxyl- groups.
Properties: It is a colorless liquid with pungent to slightly sweetish smell. It is a condensation product of ketane with formaldehyde.
Application: It is an effective sporicidal agent, and has broad-spectrum activity. 0.2% is used to sterilize biological products. It is more efficient in fumigation that formaldehyde. It is used to sterilize vaccines, tissue grafts, surgical instruments and enzymes.
Disadvantages: It has poor penetrating power and is a carcinogen.
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