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Microbiology => Antiseptics


Antiseptics, physical or chemical agents that prevent putrefaction, infection, and analogous changes in food and living tissue by destroying or arresting the development of microorganisms. Since ancient times food has been preserved by the use of antiseptic agents such as heat in cooking; niter, salt, and vinegar in corning and pickling; and wood smoke (containing creosote, chemically similar to carbolic acid) in the smoking of meats. In modern times the principal antiseptic agents used in the preservation of food are heat and cold in such processes as canning, pasteurization, and refrigeration. Irradiation is being investigated as a means of preserving food.
The practice of using antiseptics in the care and treatment of wounds was begun by the English surgeon Joseph Lister in 1865. Basing his work on the findings of the German physiologist Theodor Schwann and the French biochemist Louis Pasteur, Lister disinfected surgical and accidental wounds with a solution of carbolic acid, and in five years reduced the death rate from major amputations from nearly 50 percent to about 12 percent. Many other antiseptics have come into use, among which the most important are bichloride of mercury, iodine, boric acid, alcohol, the hypochlorites, mercurochrome, and Merthiolate. Chlorine is used in the sterilization of water, especially in public water systems and swimming pools.