Antimicrobials: what are they for?

Antimicrobials are drugs that They have the ability to stop or inhibit the growth of different microorganisms. Depending on the type of microorganism in question, one or the other will be effective. In this sense, we can find different effective antimicrobials against bacteria, fungi or parasites.

Throughout the article we will see what the different types of antimicrobials are and what their main characteristics are.

Type of antimicrobials

These drugs can be classified based on two aspects:

  • The mechanism of action.
  • The type of microbe.

Classification of antimicrobials according to their mechanism of action

From this first classification according to the mechanism of action, the following antimicrobials can be distinguished:

  • Sterilizers
  • Disinfectants
  • Antiseptics or chemotherapeutic agents.


Sterilizing agents are those substances that they are capable of producing both death and total inactivation of any type of microorganism. Two of the best known sterilizers are glutaraldehyde and ethylene oxide.

On the other hand, it is worth mentioning that there are also physical procedures such as heat, filtration and ionizing radiation used for this purpose.

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The use of disinfectants It aims to eliminate microorganisms from inert materials, due to the toxic effects that usually present on living tissues. Among the most used are alcohol and iodine compounds such as the famous Betadine.

It is important to differentiate sterilization from disinfection. Unlike the first term, antimicrobial disinfectant agents are not able to eliminate microorganisms In its whole.

Antiseptics or chemotherapeutic agents

One of the differences between both substances is that antiseptics are applied directly to damaged tissues to prevent the growth of microbes. In contrast, chemotherapeutics are administered intravenously.

Classification of antimicrobials according to the type of microbe

Then, antimicrobials are classified according to the microbe on which they are effective. In this sense, we can differentiate the following:


The term antibiotic refers to chemical substances produced by a living being, or synthetic derivatives thereof, that kill or prevent the growth of certain kinds of sensitive microorganisms.

As your name indicates, They are used to treat infections caused by bacteria. They are medicines that are used both in veterinary medicine and in human medicine, as well as antiparasitic drugs and other antimicrobials. The objective of antibiotic treatment is to eradicate the pathogenic microorganism.

Finally, it is important to mention that self-medication with antibiotics is a serious public health problem. The reason for that is that bacteria are able to develop resistance mechanisms against the different mechanisms of action of antibacterials. In this way, initially effective treatments cease to work and the therapeutic arsenal is reduced.


Also known as antifungals, they are substances that prevent growth or kill certain types of fungi.

As with the use of antibiotics, as we have explained, Many people self-medicate and have abused a lot of these medications, causing microorganisms to develop resistance against currently known drugs.

Among some of the best known antifungals we can mention:

  • Itraconazole
  • Posaconazole
  • Fluconazole
  • Voriconazole
  • Caspofungin


This type of antimicrobial They are used in both veterinary and human medicine to fight infections caused by bacteria and parasites and to treat some forms of cancer.

The best known are anthelmintics and antiprozoans. Among them we highlight:

  • Albendazole
  • Mebendazole
  • Trimethoprim
  • Paramomycin
  • Metronizadol
  • Ivermectin

Today, it is trying to discover other antiparasitic that present less adverse effects and that fight the development of resistance of parasites to commercial drugs.

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These drugs They are used to treat viral infections. The main feature is that they are not able to cure the disease, but they alleviate the symptoms of it.

Thus, manage to reduce the severity of symptoms and reduce the chances of suffering complications. There are antivirals for each type of virus and they are only administered under medical prescription.


Antimicrobial substances they are able to inhibit the growth of different microorganisms or cause their death. One type or another will be used depending on the specific infection and the situation.

As for antimicrobial drugs (antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic and antiviral) they are medicines subject to medical prescription. Therefore, self-medication with this type of medication favors the development of resistance by the microbes and, therefore, a decrease in the effectiveness of the treatments.