These conditions have been specially studied and applied in connexion with the preserving of food (see Food Preservation) and in the ancient practice of embalming the dead, which is the earliest illustration of the systematic use of antiseptics (see Embalming).
In early inquiries a great point was made of the prevention of putrefaction, and work was done in the way of finding how much of an agent must be added to a given solution, in order that the bacteria accidentally present might not develop. But for various reasons this was an inexact method, and to-day an antiseptic is judged by its effects on pure cultures of definite pathogenic microbes, and on their vegetative and spore forms. Their standardization has been effected in many instances, and a water solution of carbolic acid of a certain fixed 'strength is now taken as the standard with which other antiseptics are compared.
Of the dry antiseptics iodoform is constantly used in septic or tuberculous wounds, and it appears to have an inhibitory action on Bacillus tuberculosis.
Among the more recently introduced antiseptics, chinosol, a yellow substance freely soluble in water, and lysol, another coal-tar derivative, are much used.
Recent work has shown it is too feeble to be relied upon alone, but where really efficient antiseptics, such as mercuric chloride and iodide, and carbolic acid, have been already employed, boracic acid (which, unlike these, is non-poisonous and non-irritant) may legitimately be used to maintain the aseptic or non-bacterial condition which they have obtained.
At higher temperatures than the optimum, in the presence of weak antiseptics, &c. The virulence of many organisms, however, becomes diminished when they are grown on the ordinary artificial media, and the diminution is sometimes accelerated by passing a current bility.