Chlorine is an effective disinfectant as a free gas, and as a component of chlorine-releasing compounds such as hypochlorite and chloramines. Chlorine gas, in compressed form, is used in the disinfection of municipal water supplies, swimming pools and the dairy industry. Sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) oxidises sulphydryl (—SH) and disulphide (S—S) bonds in proteins. Like chlorine, hypochlorite is inactivated by the presence of organic material. Chloramines are more stable than hypochlorite or free chlorine, and are less affected by organic matter. They are also less toxic and have the additional benefit of releasing their chlorine slowly over a period of time, giving them a prolonged bactericidal effect.
Disinfection is the elimination or inhibition of pathogenic microorganisms in or on an object so that they no longer pose a threat.
Iodine acts by combining with the tyrosine residues on proteins; its effect is enhanced by being dissolved in ethanol (1 per cent I2 in 70 per cent ethanol) as tincture of iodine, an effective skin disinfectant. Its use is being superseded by iodophores (Betadine, Isodine), in which iodine is combined with an organic molecule, usually a detergent, to combat bacteria, viruses and fungi, but not spores.
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