OVERVIEW: Regardless of whether a pathogen is viral, bacterial, parasitic, fungal or an emerging unknown, the mainstay of infectious disease control is hygiene, and the cornerstone of good hygiene is effective disinfection.
CHALLENGES AND CURRENT CHOICES: Certain pathogens present a challenge to kill effectively: parvovirus, protozoal oocysts, mycobacteria, bacterial spores and prions resist most disinfectants but can be eliminated through heat, especially steam, which will kill protozoal oocysts. Heat is the safest and most effective disinfectant, but cannot be universally applied. Temperatures in washing machines and dishwashers should be at least 60°C to eliminate pathogenic spores and resistant viruses. Enveloped viruses are susceptible to most disinfectants; of the non-enveloped viruses, parvovirus is recognised as being the most difficult to eradicate. Sodium hypochlorite is recommended for many applications: cleaning of floors, laundry, food preparation surfaces and utensils. Skin scrubs and rubs containing alcohols are more effective than those containing chlorhexidine, and less subject to contamination.
DISINFECTANTS TO AVOID: Deficiency of the enzyme UDP-glucuronosyl transferase renders the cat susceptible to the toxic effects of phenol-based disinfectants (including many essential oils), so these should be avoided in feline environments. Quaternary ammonium compounds (eg, benzalkonium chloride) are also probably best avoided.
THE FUTURE: Veterinary disinfection approaches in the future may include use of ultraviolet radiation and, increasingly, silver.
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