The search for the perfect germicide began when Lister first applied the principles of Pasteur to the practice of surgery. The perfect germicide should meet two simple requirements: It must kill all parasitic life, while causing no harm to any cell of the living body.
The problem has been partially solved for certain groups of infective agents, all of which, however, belong to the lower forms of animal life. The infective agents more closely related to the plant kingdom, the bacteria, have shown a greater resistance to lethal agents than is possessed by the cells of the animal body, and therefore the great problem of surgery, the prevention and control of bacterial infection, remains only partially solved.
The lethal effect of all the usual germicides on the animal cells, with the clinical result of retardation and inhibition of the natural processes of repair, have become so well recognized of late