Soaps are highly germicidal against a number of pathogenic organisms. Their activity against streptococci, pneumococci, meningococci, diphtheria bacilli, influenza bacilli and Spirochaeta pallida is such that they compare favorably with many of the recently synthesized chemicals that have been heralded, at least in advertisements, as crowning achievements of modern chemistry. The standard textbooks on surgery and bacteriology, however, make practically no mention of these properties of soaps. This is partly because soaps are not germicidal against the organisms used as a routine in testing germicides; namely, typhoid bacilli and staphylococci. Also, the recognition of the germicidal properties of soap is comparatively recent. Despite the fact that their limited activity against staphylococci and typhoid bacilli precludes their use as general germicides, it has been amply shown that their hygienic value by no means rests solely on their detergent properties.
In addition to their use for purposes of hygiene, Renaud1 has
WALKER JE. THE GERMICIDAL AND THERAPEUTIC APPLICATIONS OF SOAPS. JAMA. 1931;97(1):19–20. doi:10.1001/jama.1931.02730010023007
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