How do Quats work?

How do pharma-grade Quaternary Ammonium Compounds enable the production of higher quality medicines?

Quaternary ammonium compounds, commonly known as Quats, are a group of cationic surfactants with a high level of antibacterial activity and an important role to play in the pharmaceutical industry. Key examples include Benzalkonium Chloride (BCK), Cetrimide, and Cetrimonium Bromide (CTAB), but how do they work?

Quats’ alkyl chains have a great affinity for bacterial membranes. Their positively charged ions bind to the negatively charged outer membranes of the pathogen and disrupt its intermolecular interactions. In addition to gram+ and gram- bacteria, Quats are also effective against moulds, yeasts, and viruses such as HIV, herpes, and coronavirus.

Quats are miscible with water or lower alcohols such as methanol, ethanol, and propanol. The length of the alkyl chain length affects the different properties of Quats. A shorter chain length is associated with higher antimicrobial activity but higher levels of skin sensitivity, as well as greater solubility in water. It is worth noting that mixing Quats with ordinary soaps and/or with anionic detergents may decrease their antimicrobial activity through a neutralising effect.

Furthermore, our Quats products do not add unwanted colour or odour to finished formulations. They are non-volatile and documented stable for five years. They are easy to formulate and relatively non-toxic when formulated as recommended by authorities. These advantages combine with the efficacy of Quats to make them a staple ingredient for the pharmaceutical industry.