Alteration of Cell Walls and Membranes

Disruption of the cell wall - compounds that break down or prevent the synthesis of the cell wall expose the cell membrane to the osmotic conditions outside.  This can lead to plasmolysis or lysis.

Physical or chemical removal of the phospholipid envelope of enveloped viruses prevents them from attaching to host cells, since the viral spikes necessary for adsorption are removed.  Noneveloped viruses are less likely to be affected, since their spikes are located on the surface of the capsid.

Damage to proteins and nucleic acids - disruption of the disulfide and hydrogen bonds that maintain the three-dimensional shape of a protein cause it to denature and become nonfunctional.

Chemical and physical agents that destroy or alter the nucleic acids of a cell prevent protein synthesis to inhibit or kill cells.