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Article
April 30, 1927

WHAT IS AN ANTISEPTIC?

JAMA. 1927;88(18):1420-1421. doi:10.1001/jama.1927.02680440054019

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Abstract

In current medical textbooks a germicide is defined as a substance or agent that destroys micro-organisms so that they will not grow when placed in appropriate culture mediums; an antiseptic is defined as a substance that hinders or prevents the growth of micro-organisms but does not necessarily destroy their vitality. While these definitions of "germicide" and "antiseptic" have been generally recognized, the terms have been used in medical writings in a slipshod manner, and all too often as if they were synonymous. Not only that; the methods for determining germicidal power have often been applied in such a way as to mistake an antiseptic action for germicidal effect. Thus, in 1910 the Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry was obliged to carry out an extensive research before it was able to convince the proprietor of a then widely advertised antiseptic that the product was an efficient antiseptic but a relatively poor

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