There are different types of hand disinfectants used in pharmaceuticals. These differences can be attributed to the fact that each one varies in its mode of action and the level of activity. It is important to utilize different types of sanitizers in pharmaceuticals because the mode of action in each is needed to prevent the resistance of microbes.
Hand sanitizers are antiseptics used in conjunction with soap and water as part of an infection control program. The most common forms of disinfectants include gels, liquids, foams, mists and wipes.
Hand Disinfectants and their Effectiveness
There are currently three classifications of hand disinfectants available: these include alcohols, quaternary ammonium compounds and triclosan. Some disinfectant products contain ethanol. Ethanol is particularly effective against gram positive, gram negative and fungal organisms. While ethanol does work to weaken proteins in infectious organisms, it does not kill bacterial spores and some types of enveloped viruses. Ethanol can also be flammable.
Benzalkonium chloride and benzethonium chloride are quaternary ammonium compounds. Because of their non-flammable properties, quaternary ammonium compounds are safe for use around hyfrecator or electrocautery devices. They are also fungistatic, bacteriostatic against gram-positive bacteria, bacteriostatic against some types of gram-negative bacteria and are not active against enveloped viruses.
One thing to note about quaternary ammonium compounds is that they are not entirely effective against Staphylococcus aureus. This is due to the fact that quaternary ammonium compounds absorb to the cytoplasmic membrane of microbes which can result in the leakage of cytoplasmic contents.
Triclosan is present in different types of hand sanitizers used in pharmaceuticals. Common in most store-bought sanitizers, triclosan damages the cell membranes of organisms but does not do well to ward off bacteria like Pseudomonas.
The use of hand disinfectants is recommended in order to decrease the spread of infectious diseases and the killing of micro-organisms on the skin, but should not be a substitute for regular hand washing.
Are Hand Disinfectants More Effective Than Washing Hands?
Whether or not different types of hand disinfectants used in pharmaceuticals are more effective than hand washing still remains a question today. Alcohol-based sanitizers that contain more than 60 percent of alcohol are said to be most effective. This may be true, but the product may not stay long enough on the skin to provide the kind of protection needed. If the alcohol is not present long enough to fight off bacteria, sanitizers may not be as effective as washing the hands.
Studies suggest that ethanol is better at killing microbes than isopropanol, however, it does offer proper protection against bacteria, fungi and viruses. Triclosan and benzalkonium chloride are ideal at high concentrations but have also been found to contribute to antibiotic-resistant microbes. When used inappropriately or more than needed, the potential for antibiotic resistance increases.
It is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that hand disinfectants be used in high-risk settings, when hands are visibly dirty and before and after using the restroom. It is also best to avoid products with high irritancy potential for continued use.