What are antimicrobial agents?
To understand the role of antimicrobial agents, we need to familiarise ourselves with what they are. Antimicrobial agents are a mixture of chemical compounds and physical materials that kill and destroy microorganisms like pathogenic bacteria. By killing bacteria or reducing their metabolic activity, antimicrobial agents minimise bacteria’s pathogenic effect in biological environments.
Antimicrobial flooring hinders the growth of bacteria on its surface. The most common additives used to manufacture antimicrobial flooring include isothiazolinone, zinc pyrithione, thiabendazole, and silver ions.
Available Antimicrobial Agents and their Properties
Several materials exhibit antimicrobial properties, and many types of antimicrobial agents can be incorporated into floor coatings. Metals such as silver, copper, zinc, titanium, and cobalt have antimicrobial properties. When these remain on surfaces, their biocidal properties are gradually released onto the surface through a process of ion exchange. They, thereby, provide the surfaces with continuous and lasting antimicrobial properties.
1. Silver Ions
Silver Ion is a metal antimicrobial agent that is commonly used in floor coatings. Silver is known for its antimicrobial properties that can kill a wide spectrum of bacteria, fungi and even certain viruses. The positively charged silver ions (Ag+) possess an antimicrobial effect. These silver ions target the bacteria through a series of actions, starting with damaging the protein in the bacterial cell wall to enter the microorganism. The structural damage to the bacteria cell wall, as seen on page 22, helps easy entry of the particles into the bacteria cell’s interior, preventing replication and destroying the bacteria.
2. Zinc Oxide
Zinc Oxide (ZnO) showcases antimicrobial activities when its particle size is reduced to a nanometer range. In such a state, zinc oxide can effortlessly interact with the contaminated surface and the bacteria. Zinc oxide particles enter the bacteria and exhibit a distinct bactericidal mechanism. However, zinc oxide is only effective on specific types of bacteria.
Triclosan is a chemical antimicrobial agent that is widely effective against many gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Triclosan works by blocking bacterial fatty acid biosynthesis. Originally developed in the early 1960s, Triclosan is a phenoxy phenol antimicrobial agent used as an antibacterial and an antifungal agent. Though it is safe to add to floor coatings, it would require a significantly higher strength for it to impactfully control bacteria growth on floor surfaces.
Though there is no one solution to completely eliminating bacteria growth, antimicrobial agents significantly assist in minimizing bacteria on floor surfaces. While regular cleaning and disinfecting schedules are just as important to prevent any possible chance of bacterial growth, the biocidal properties exhibited by certain floor coatings not only prevent but also actively fight bacterial growth and therefore play a major role in maintaining cleanliness, hygiene and safety in large food manufacturing, beverages and pharmaceutical companies.