Antiseptics and Disinfectants: Activity, Action, and Resistance
Antiseptics and disinfectants are extensively used in hospitals and other health care settings for a variety of topical and hard-surface applications. A wide variety of active chemical agents (biocides) are found in these products, many of which have been used for hundreds of years, including alcohols, phenols, iodine, and chlorine. Most of these active agents demonstrate broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity; however, little is known about the mode of action of these agents in comparison to antibiotics. This review considers what is known about the mode of action and spectrum of activity of antiseptics and disinfectants. The widespread use of these products has prompted some speculation on the development of microbial resistance, in particular whether antibiotic resistance is induced by antiseptics or disinfectants. Known mechanisms of microbial resistance (both intrinsic and acquired) to biocides are reviewed, with emphasis on the clinical implications of these reports.