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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Determination of decimal reduction time (D value) of chemical agents used in hospitals for disinfection purposes

Priscila Gava Mazzola, Thereza Christina Vessoni Penna* and Alzira M da S Martins

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Department of Biochemical and Pharmaceutical Technology, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2003, 3:24  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-3-24

Published: 17 October 2003



Prior to the selection of disinfectants for low, intermediate and high (sterilizing) levels, the decimal reduction time, D-value, for the most common and persistent bacteria identified at a health care facility should be determined.


The D-value was determined by inoculating 100 mL of disinfecting solution with 1 mL of a bacterial suspension (104 – 105 CFU/mL for vegetative and spore forms). At regular intervals, 1 mL aliquots of this mixture were transferred to 8 mL of growth media containing a neutralizing agent, and incubated at optimal conditions for the microorganism.


The highest D-values for various bacteria were determined for the following solutions: (i) 0.1% sodium dichloroisocyanurate (pH 7.0) – E. coli and A. calcoaceticus (D = 5.9 min); (ii) sodium hypochlorite (pH 7.0) at 0.025% for B. stearothermophilus (D = 24 min), E. coli and E. cloacae (D = 7.5 min); at 0.05% for B. stearothermophilus (D = 9.4 min) and E. coli (D = 6.1 min) and 0.1% for B. stearothermophilus (D = 3.5 min) and B. subtilis (D = 3.2 min); (iii) 2.0% glutaraldehyde (pH 7.4) – B. stearothermophilus, B. subtilis (D = 25 min) and E. coli (D = 7.1 min); (iv) 0.5% formaldehyde (pH 6.5) – B. subtilis (D = 11.8 min), B. stearothermophilus (D = 10.9 min) and A. calcoaceticus (D = 5.2 min); (v) 2.0% chlorhexidine (pH 6.2) – B. stearothermophilus (D = 9.1 min), and at 0.4% for E. cloacae (D = 8.3 min); (vi) 1.0% Minncare® (peracetic acid and hydrogen peroxide, pH 2.3) – B. stearothermophilus (D = 9.1 min) and E. coli (D = 6.7 min).


The suspension studies were an indication of the disinfectant efficacy on a surface. The data in this study reflect the formulations used and may vary from product to product. The expected effectiveness from the studied formulations showed that the tested agents can be recommended for surface disinfection as stated in present guidelines and emphasizes the importance and need to develop routine and novel programs to evaluate product utility.

Disinfectants; decimal reduction time (D-value); Escherichia coli; Staphylococcus aureus; Bacillus subtilis; Bacillus stearothermophilus