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Name: Isabelle R.
Status: Student
Age: 17
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2002

Following an experiment conducted to see how different concentrations of disinfectant affect the growth of E.coli, I am interested in finding out about HOW the disinfectant kills the bacteria. I understand that some sort of process of oxidation is involved, but I would like to know more. All the web site links that I have found have only looked at the use of disinfectant, and different products, but not actually how they work.

A very good question and especially relevant right now, because some microbiologists are worried that the current widespread use of disinfectants will speed the development of resistance in bacteria. There are a number of agents that can be used to kill bacteria on contact that work in different ways. What disinfectant were you interested in? A useful web site might be the manufacturer of the product.

Laura Hungerford, DVM, MPH, PhD
University of Nebraska

It depends on the disinfectant being used. Many disrupt cell membranes, many denature proteins including enzymes, others are oxidizing agents. For example, phenols, phenolics, and alcohols denature proteins. Alcohols also disrupt lipids in the cell membrane. Halogens, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, chlorine, hypochlorite (bleach) are oxidizing agents and inactivate enzymes by oxidizing their functional groups. Heavy metals react with -SH groups on enyzmes.


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