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Definitions Used to Describe Control of Microorganisms

DISINFECTANT--An agent that will destroy many of the disease-causing microorganisms present on the surface of an inanimate object. A disinfectant claim is granted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to any solution which will destroy the following three microorganisms using an official AOAC (AOAC: Association of Official Analytical Chemists) procedure: Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Salmonella choleraesuis. A disinfectant label does not imply or include effectivity against viruses, mycobacterium, protozoa or heat-resistant bacterial spores.

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ANTISEPTIC--An agent that can be used as directed to reduce the microbial population found on skin. The maximum useable concentration of antiseptic is limited by risk of skin and mucous membrane irritation.

GERMICIDE--(Also called Bactericidal) An agent that kills certain specified types of pathogenic microorganisms when used as directed. The labels of these agents make minimal claims, such as excluding specific bacteria by name. The limitations of these claims can only be found by closely reading the labels. A germicide does not automatically kill spores, viruses, tuberculosis or fungi.

--An agent that reduces microbial contamination on the surface of an object to an acceptable level. Sanitizers must not leave a harmful residue.

STERILANT--An agent that destroys all microbial organisms including heat-resistant bacterial spores. Sterilization can be achieved by boiling, autoclaving or exposure to toxic chemicals. Solutions that contain chlorine or glutaraldehyde are frequently labeled as chemical sterilants.

SPORICIDE--An agent that kills two specific types of vacuum-dried bacterial spores, according to specific AOAC test requirements.

TUBERCULOCIDAL--An agent that kills mycobacteria and especially M. tuberculosis according to procedures defined by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). A disinfectant or germicide is not automatically considered to be tuberculocidal.

VIRUCIDE--An agent that kills certain specified types of viruses when used as directed. An EPA approved label claim must state which viruses the agent has been proved effective against.

Clipsham, R., Environmental Preventive Medicine, in proceedings of MARE seminars, 1992
Ritchie, B.; Avian Viruses, Function and Control, 1995; pp 114-118
Vaughn, S, Disinfectants and their Use, in proceedings of MARE seminars, 1993
Springthorpe, V.S. and Sattar S.A; Chemical Disinfection of Virus-Contaminated Surfaces; Critical Reviews in Environmental Control, Vol. XX, No. 3, 1990

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