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November 22, 1976

Aqueous Quaternary Ammonium Antiseptics and DisinfectantsUse and Misuse

Author Affiliations

From the Bacterial Diseases Division, Bureau of Epidemiology, Center for Disease Control, Public Health Service, US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Atlanta.

JAMA. 1976;236(21):2415-2417. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03270220035031

HOSPITAL personnel often assume that liquid antiseptics and disinfectants will sterilize treated objects. However, as these agents are usually used in hospitals, they do not eradicate contamination, but rather, can only be relied on to reduce surface contamination to a level unlikely to be hazardous. Too often, they do not even achieve this degree of decontamination, since the effectiveness of a liquid antiseptic or disinfectant depends on its strength, activity, and duration of contact with the contaminated surface, as well as the nature and extent of the contamination. In addition, these agents may themselves be contaminated with potential pathogens. For these reasons, these agents may not prevent, indeed, they may even cause, patient infection. Among the various agents used in hospitals, the aqueous quaternary ammonium compounds (AQACs) have been frequently implicated as a cause of infection because of intrinsic contamination or a lack of effectiveness against certain pathogens.

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