Biosafety University

From Armor to Vulnerability: Understanding The Microbiological Disinfectant Hierarchy

Disinfection is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Instead, pathogens display a range of responses to disinfectants, creating a complex interplay of resistance and susceptibility. This intricate dance of microorganisms is where the Microbiological Disinfectant Hierarchy steps in, which can serve as a roadmap to how well your disinfectants will kill the pathogens that put your animal models at risk.

The Microbiological Disinfectant Hierarchy: A Realm of Diversity

Microbes exhibit a wide range of responses to disinfectants, and this hierarchy1 paints a vivid picture of resistance:

High Resistance Think of spores like C. difficile – they’re tough to crack.
Moderate Resistance Enter mycobacteria, exemplified by M. tuberculosis – they present a challenge.
Moderate Susceptibility Non-Enveloped Viruses such as norovirus, HAV, and polio are in the middle ground.
Susceptibility with Strategy Fungi like Candida and Trichophyton have weaknesses that can be exploited.
Adaptability in Defense Bacteria such as MRSA, VRE, and Acinetobacter are versatile in their defense tactics.
Lower Resistance Enveloped Viruses like HIV, HSV, and Flu show a lower level of resistance.

Understanding Why Some Germs are Tougher to Beat

The varying resistance of pathogens to disinfectants stems from their structural and biochemical characteristics. Spores like C. difficile possess tough protein coats and low water content, making them resilient to disinfectants. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, enveloped viruses like HIV, HSV, and Flu have lipid envelopes that render them more susceptible to disinfectants due to lipid disruption.

You can think of the range of susceptibility to disinfection like the pathogens have different levels of armor. The toughest microorganisms have special armor that makes them incredibly resistant to disinfectants. It’s like they’ve built a fortress around themselves and regular disinfectants struggle to break through. However some microorganisms, like Fungi such as Candida and Trichophyton, are like opponents with chinks in their armor. Disinfectants can find those weak points and exploit them, kind of like finding the right key to unlock a door. Understanding these differences helps us choose the right strategies and tools to keep our spaces safe and germ-free.

Disinfection Hierarchy can be Dynamic

The microbial world is a dynamic one, filled with unique deviations from the norm. These anomalies include distinctive microbes like parvovirus, HPV, nontuberculous mycobacteria, prions, and protozoa. These outliers challenge the conventions of hierarchies, inspiring us to continuously refine our strategies for dealing with pathogens in your facility. You also have the issue of biofilm, which can increase the pathogenic qualities of bacteria and reduce a disinfectant’s effectiveness. You see, biofilm can increase the pathogenesis of diseases, and change how hereditary diseases present.

Not only that, but the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that 65% of all bacterial infections are associated with biofilm formation, and close proximity of the bacteria allows for horizontal gene transfer to spread resistance as well. That’s why we’ve worked with our friends at Sterilex to introduce ViveSecure. Designed to kill and remove biofilm and prevent cross-contamination, we are extremely excited to be able to exclusively offer Sterilex’s patented PerQuat technology to the life sciences industry.

Quip Laboratories: Your Guide in Finding the Right Solution

With a legacy spanning over four decades, Quip Laboratories has mastered the art of deciphering microbial hierarchies. Our extensive experience has helped premier research institutions across the country and around the world create disinfectant protocols tailored to their distinct pathogenic concerns.

Our comprehensive environmental monitoring and expanded lab services allow us to precisely identify specific pathogens that require attention. Alternatively, when precision isn’t paramount, we offer guidance on disinfectants capable of effectively combating a wide range of pathogens. Our products, including the MB-10 Tablets and Halomist Dry-Fogged Hydrogen Peroxide Disinfectant, stand as potent solutions in this endeavor. At Quip Laboratories, our mission is twofold – to inform and empower, ensuring that facility hygiene practices resonate with the intricate dynamics of microbial life.


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1.Rutala, W. A. (n.d.). Overview of Current Disinfection Hierarchy Models. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from