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Chapter 5 : Antibiotics That Disrupt Membrane Integrity
It has been known for decades that agents that can disrupt the integrity of bacterial membranes are bactericidal. Antiseptic chemicals that act as germicides and sanitizers kill bacteria and other microbes quickly when used, for example, in hand washing. Active ingredients include organic aliphatic alcohols and phenols, as well as aldehydes, acting as solvents to dissolve membranes (McDonnell and Russell, 2001). Disinfectants for microbes on inorganic surfaces can also contain oxidizing agents such as hydrogen peroxide or iodine solutions that also kill rapidly. These agents do not have enough selectivity for bacterial membranes over eukaryotic, human cell membranes to have a sufficient therapeutic index to be used systemically and so are restricted to topical use.