Biology and You

You, Bacteria, and Viruses

How do antibiotics differ from antibacterials?

Antibiotics and antibacterials both interfere with the growth and reproduction of bacteria. Antibiotics are medications for humans and animals. Antibacterials, found in soaps, detergents, health and skincare products, and household cleaners, are used to disinfect surfaces and eliminate potentially harmful bacteria. Nonresidue-producing antibacterials —such as alcohols—quickly destroy bacteria, rapidly disappear from the surface they were applied to due to evaporation or chemical breakdown, and leave no active residue behind. Residue-producing antibacterials—such as triclocarban—have prolonged effects because they leave long-acting residues on the surfaces to which they are applied.


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