∞ generated and posted on 2016.01.12 ∞
Substance that is applied to within the body tissues of an organism as a means of controlling the proliferation of pathogens and parasites.
Among antimicrobials, a hierarchy can be observed that consists of disinfectants, antiseptics, and antimicrobial drugs, which I've listed in order of decreasing harshness. In particular, disinfectants should not come into contact with bodies, antiseptics can contact the outside of bodies but should not be allowed to substantially penetrate into bodies, and antimicrobial drugs are sufficiently safe with regard to their impact on body tissues that they can be allowed to enter into bodies.
An additional and important feature that distinguishes antiseptics from antimicrobial drugs is one of selective toxicity, which antimicrobial drugs by necessity possess but antiseptics tend to somewhat lack. Antimicrobial drugs otherwise include antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic compounds.
Note that there is a fine line between certain antimicrobial drugs, ones that can only be used topically such as in wound dressings, and antiseptics. This distinction may be viewed in terms of duration of exposure, where antiseptics may be employed over relatively short periods versus longer exposures such as repeated dosing for antimicrobial drugs that are limited to topical application.
Another way of viewing these differences is that antiseptics may be employed for degerming and initial disinfection such as of a wound whereas, for example, a topical antibiotic may be employed repeatedly in the dressing of the wound even if more systemic use of the antibiotic is to be avoided.