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What Is Antimicrobial Technology?

Posted by SOS Cleanroom on 28th Oct 2019

Though many of you reading may be familiar with antimicrobials and how they work, SOS Cleanroom would like to offer up a quick course on the subject for all of our customers. Read on to learn about antimicrobial technology and the role it plays in keeping our surfaces clean and germ-free.

The Merriam-Webster definition of antimicrobial is “destroying or inhibiting the growth of microorganisms and especially pathogenic microorganisms.” The word was first used in the late 19th century by scientists investigating how to kill bacteria responsible for infections.

Antimicrobial technology has been used by humans for at least 2,000 years. For example, many ancient cultures, especially the Greeks, used mold and plant extracts to treat infection, and the Egyptians were famously known for crafting silver pitchers to keep their water free of microbes (silver has natural antimicrobial properties). Innovation was more or less stagnant until the 19th century, when notable scientists like Louis Pasteur began looking for different ways to control the spread of microbes. Due to these intrepid scientists’ years of research, much was learned about how bacteria transfer and spread, and that research is the basis for many of the lifesaving breakthroughs we take for granted today. For example, Joseph Lister designed antiseptic methods for sterilizing surgical tools and cleaning wounds on the operating table, all because he had read Pasteur’s documentation and realized that is was necessary to expand upon it to further proper sanitation practices in the field of medicine.

Antimicrobials target microorganisms like viruses, bacteria, protozoans, and fungi such as mold and mildew. There are several use cases when it comes to treating with antimicrobials.

  • Antibacterials: Used to treat bacterial infections. They are considered to be relatively safe for humans and other animals, although repeated and prolonged use can decrease the amount of beneficial bacteria in a patient's body.
  • Antivirals: Used to treat viral infections in humans and other animals. They are created to target specific infections such as HIV and herpes.
  • Antifungals: Used to kill or prevent the growth of fungi like thrush, ringworm ,and athlete’s foot. Can be dangerous to the patient if not used properly.
  • Antiparasitics: Used to treat infectious diseases like malaria, Chagas, and others caused by parasites.
  • Non-pharmaceutical: Used for treating microbes found outside the body, e.g. on meat products or in public places. Often created from natural compounds like organic acids and copper alloys.

Classes of Antimicrobials

There are three main types of antimicrobials:

  • Disinfectants
    • Agents that are applied to the surface of non-living objects to destroy microorganisms that are living on the objects. Disinfectants work by destroying the cell wall of microbes or otherwise interfering with their metabolism.
  • Antiseptics
    • Substances that stop or slow down the growth of microorganisms. Generally applied to skin and used during surgeries to reduce the risk of infection. Some antiseptics are germicides capable of killing microbes, while others are bacteriostatic and only prevent or inhibit growth.
  • Antibiotics
    • Medicines that inhibit the growth of microorganisms. Taken internally. Antibiotics can either destroy or inhibit the growth of bacteria, depending on their strength.

Antimicrobial Technology Explained

Although often used as a blanket term to describe the science behind, and application of, general antimicrobial theory, “antimicrobial technology” has more recently come to mean its application in non-pharmaceutical situations. Examples include:

  • Treating surfaces such as medical devices, door handles, and table tops to resist bacteria
  • Manufacturing materials that are resistant to bacteria, including copper-alloy surfaces, silver and zinc medical devices, and organically-treated surfaces
  • Spraying beef caracasses with natural chemicals like lactic acid and acetic acid
  • Cleaning public areas like hospitals and homes in order to minimize exposure to microbes
  • Treating medical and industrial cleanrooms

The various modes of application will vary depending on the situation, but usually consist of implementing manufactured materials or wiping down/spraying surfaces and devices with special cleaners.

Get Your Necessary Antimicrobial Supplies From SOS Cleanroom

With almost 30 years in the cleanroom industry, SOS Cleanroom has the experience and knowledge you need to get the best in antimicrobial cleanroom supplies and advice. Whether you’re looking for antibacterial wipes, disinfectants, liquid cleaners, or industrial swabs, SOS Cleanroom will go above and beyond to get you the latest and the greatest in cleanroom antimicrobial technology, all at a reasonable price.