The effect of interfering substances on the disinfection process: a mathematical model

J Appl Microbiol. 2001 Sep;91(3):548-55. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2672.2001.01422.x.


Aims: To gain a greater understanding of the effect of interfering substances on the efficacy of disinfection.

Methods and results: Current kinetic disinfection models were augmented by a term designed to quantify the deleterious effect of soils such as milk on the disinfection process of suspended organisms. The model was based on the assumption that inactivation by added soil occurred at a much faster rate than microbial inactivation. The new model, the fat-soil model, was also able to quantify the effect of changing the initial inoculum size (1 x 10(7)-5 x 10(7) ml(-1) of Staphylococcus aureus) on the outcome of the suspension tests. Addition of catalase to the disinfection of Escherichia coli by hydrogen peroxide, resulted in changes to the shape of the log survivor/time plots. These changes were modelled on the basis of changing biocide concentration commensurate with microbial inactivation.

Conclusions: The reduction in efficacy of a disinfectant in the presence of an interfering substance can be quantified through the use of adaptations to current disinfection models.

Significance and impact of the study: Understanding the effect of soil on disinfection efficacy allows us to understand the limitations of disinfectants and disinfection procedures. It also gives us a mechanism with which to investigate the soil tolerance of new biocides and formulations.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • Disinfectants / pharmacology*
  • Disinfection*
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Mathematics
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Milk / drug effects
  • Milk / microbiology*
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate / metabolism
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects
  • Staphylococcus aureus / growth & development


  • Disinfectants
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Catalase