Antimicrobials can kill or prevent the spread of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, on surfaces. Many substances, including disinfectants, can be antimicrobial, though the term itself is not indicative of performance. Simply put, antimicrobial agents are products that kill or stop the growth of microorganisms. Although they are primarily used to remove buildups of dangerous or harmful microorganisms like bacteria, viruses or fungi that form on surfaces, antimicrobial agents actually have uses within some animals and in human medicine, as well.
Products that use antimicrobials keep workplaces, residential spaces and other surfaces like bathrooms clean, while also having their uses in healthcare and industrial facilities. Antimicrobials are capable of aiding in treating severe infections and protecting important infrastructure like water systems from growths of microorganisms.
The biggest difference between antimicrobial agents and antibacterials are the types of microorganisms they work against. While antimicrobial technology is effective against viruses, bacteria, and fungi, antibacterial technology is only effective against a broad spectrum of harmful bacteria. Additionally, antimicrobial technology continues to inhibit the growth of microbes on surfaces for longer periods of time than antibacterial technology.
There has been widespread speculation on antimicrobial technology and scientists have studied whether or not usage of antimicrobials creates resistant strains of microorganisms – although, they have not been able to completely agree.
However, there is good evidence that the major category of disinfectants, quaternary ammonium chlorides (quats), lose their effectiveness against some organisms over time. This is a problem in medical settings in particular. In addition, some organisms, depending on their structure, are inherently resistant to some disinfectants.