, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 619–626 | Cite as

Vertebrates as a Bactericidal Agent

  • F. S. Ferreira
  • S. V. Brito
  • H. D. M. Coutinho
  • E. P. Souza
  • W. O. Almeida
  • R. R. N. Alves
Original Contribution


In Brazil, although a large number of animals are used in traditional medicine (at least 354 species), information about their biological activities is scarce. In this context, the objective of this study was to evaluate the bactericidal potential of zootherapeutic by-products from animals used in Brazilian traditional medicine and discuss the ecological and cultural consequences of such practices. The species analyzed were: Tupinambis merianae (skin), Iguana iguana (skin and body fat), Crotalus durissus (skin and body fat), Boa constrictor (skin), Euphractus sexcinctus (body fat) and Coendou prehensilis (quills). Experiments were performed with standard clinical strains of Escherichia coli (EC-ATCC10536) and Staphylococcus aureus (SA-ATCC 25923). For the microbiological assay, the zootherapeutics were evaluated using serial microdilutions. The results indicate that none of the samples possess inhibitory activity against standard bacterial strains. The in vitro ineffectiveness of the analyzed products demonstrate a necessity for new pharmacological research that encompass a large number of species of medicinal animals as well as highlight the importance of zootherapy in the context of plans for animal conservation.


Zootherapy Game vertebrates Infection Conservation 



The authors would like to thank the Fundação Cearense de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento Científico and Tecnológico—FUNCAP for the research grant awarded to H. D. M. Coutinho. We are grateful to the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico—CNPq for the research grant awarded to W. O. Almeida and R. R. N. Alves.


  1. Albuquerque UP, Araújo EL, El-Deir ACA, Lima ALA, Souto A, et al. (2012) Caatinga Revisited: Ecology and Conservation of an Important Seasonal Dry Forest. The Scientific World Journal 2012 Google Scholar
  2. Alves RRN, Rosa IL (2013) Animals in Traditional Folk Medicine: Implications for Conservation, Berlin: SpringerCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alves RRN, Albuquerque UP (2013). Animals as a Source of Drugs: Bioprospecting and Biodiversity Conservation. In: Animals in Traditional Folk Medicine, Alves, RRN, Rosa, I (editors) Berlin: Springer, pp 67-89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alves RRN, Rosa IL, Albuquerque UP, Cunningham AB (2013) Medicine from the Wild: An Overview of the Use and Trade of Animal Products in Traditional Medicines. In: Animals in Traditional Folk Medicine, Alves, RRN, Rosa, I (editors) Berlin: Springer, pp. 25-42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alves RRN (2012) Relationships between fauna and people and the role of ethnozoology in animal conservation. Ethnobiology and Conservation 1Google Scholar
  6. Alves RRN, Souto WMS (2011) Ethnozoology in Brazil: current status and perspectives. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 7: 22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Alves RRN, Rosa IL (2010) Trade of animals used in Brazilian traditional medicine: trends and implications for conservation. Human Ecology 1–14Google Scholar
  8. Alves RRN, Léo-Neto NA, Brooks SE, Albuquerque UP (2009a) Commercialization of animal-derived remedies as complementary medicine in the semi-arid region of northeastern Brazil. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 124: 600-608CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Alves RRN, Silva CC, Barboza RRD, Souto MSW (2009b) Zootherapy as an alternative therapeutic in South America. Journal of Alternative Medicine Research 1: 21-47Google Scholar
  10. Alves RRN (2008) Animal-based remedies as complementary medicine in Brazil. Research in Complementary Medicine 15: 226-227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Barbosa JAA, Nobrega VA, Alves RRN.(2011) Hunting practices in the semiarid region of Brazil. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge 10: 486-490Google Scholar
  12. Barrera-bassols N, Toledo VM (2005) Ethnoecology of the Yucatec Maya: symbolism, knowledge and management of natural resources. Journal of Latin American Geography 4: 9-41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Barrett CB, Lybbert TJ (2000) Is bioprospecting a viable strategy for conserving tropical ecosystems? Ecological Economics 34: 293-300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Brito SV, Ferreira FS, Siqueira-Júnior JP, Costa JGM, Almeida WO, et al. (2012a) Phototoxic and modulatory effects of natural products from the skin of Rhinella jimi (Stevaux, 2002). Revista Brasileira de Farmacognosia 22: 82-87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brito SV, Sales DL, Costa JGM, Rodrigues FFG, Ferreira FS, et al. (2012b) Investigation of the cytocidal potential of Rhinella jimi skin methanol extracts. Pharmaceutical Biology 50: 1026-1030CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. But PPH, Lai-Ching L, Yan-Kit T (1990) Ethnopharmacology of rhinoceros horn. I: Antipyretic effects of rhinoceros horn and other animal horns. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 30: 157-168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Buthelezi S, Southway C, Govinden U, Bodenstein J, du Toit K (2012). An investigation of the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities of crocodile oil. Journal of ethnopharmacology 143: 325-330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cabral MES, Dias DQ, Sales DL, Oliveira OP, Teles DA, et al. (2013) Evaluations of the Antimicrobial Activities and Chemical Compositions of Body Fat from the Amphibians Leptodactylus macrosternum Miranda-Ribeiro (1926) and Leptodactylus vastus Adolf Lutz (1930) in Northeastern Brazil. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013: 1-7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cassells A, Walsh C, Belin M, Cambornac M, Robin J, et al. (1999) Establishment of a plantation from micropropagated Arnica chamissonis a pharmaceutical substitute for the endangered A. montana. Plant cell, tissue and organ culture 56: 139-144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ceuterick M, Vandebroek I, Torry B, Pieroni A (2008) Cross-cultural adaptation in urban ethnobotany: the Colombian folk pharmacopoeia in London. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 120: 342-359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Chaves TP, Clementino ELC, Felismino DC, Alves RRN, Vasconcellos A,et al. (2015) Antibiotic resistance modulation by natural products obtained from Nasutitermes corniger (Motschulsky, 1855) and its nest. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences 22: 404-408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Coutinho HDM, Vasconcellos A, Freire-Pessôa HL, Gadelha CA, Gadelha TS, et al (2010). Natural products from the termite Nasutitermes corniger lowers aminoglycoside minimum inhibitory concentrations. Pharmacognosy Magazine 6: 1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Coutinho HDM, Vasconcellos A, Lima MA, Almeida-Filho GG, Alves R. 2009. Termite usage associated with antibiotic therapy: enhancement of aminoglycoside antibiotic activity by natural products of Nasutitermes corniger (Motschulsky 1855). BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 9: 35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Cragg GM, Newman DJ. (2001). Medicinals for the millennia.Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 953: 3-25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Demunshi Y, Chugh A (2010) Role of traditional knowledge in marine bioprospecting. Biodiversity and Conservation 19: 3015-3033CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dias DQ, Cabral MES, Sales DL, Oliveira OP, Araujo Filho JA et al. (2013) Chemical composition and validation of the ethnopharmacological reported antimicrobial activity of the body fat of Phrynops geoffroanus used in traditional medicine. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013: 4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dow J (1986) Universal aspects of symbolic healing: a theoretical synthesis. American Anthropologist 88: 56-69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Downing DT (1992) Lipid and protein structures in the permeability barrier of mammalian epidermis. Journal of Lipid Research 33: 301-313.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Falodun A, Owolabi OJ, Osahon O (2008) Physicochemical, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory evaluation of fixed oil from Boa constrictor. Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica - Drug Research 65: 477-480Google Scholar
  30. Feijó A, Langguth A (2013) Mamíferos de médio e grande porte do nordeste do Brasil: distribuição e taxonomia, com descrição de novas espécies. Revista Nordestina de Biologia 22: 1-225Google Scholar
  31. Ferreira FS, Brito SV, Almeida WO, Alves RRN (2016) Conservation of animals traded for medicinal purposes in Brazil: Can products derived from plants or domestic animals replace products of wild animals? Regional Environmental Change 16: 543–551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ferreira FS, Brito SV, Sales DL, Menezes IRA, Coutinho HDM, et al. 2014. Anti-inflammatory potential of zootherapeutics derived from animals used in Brazilian traditional medicine. Pharmaceutical Biology 52: 1403-1410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ferreira FS, Fernandes-Ferreira H, Léo-Neto NA, Brito SV, Alves RRN (2013) The trade of medicinal animals in Brazil: current status and perspectives. Biodiversity and Conservation 22: 839-870CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ferreira FS, Albuquerque UP, Coutinho HDM, Almeida WO, Alves RRN (2012) The Trade in Medicinal Animals in Northeastern Brazil. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012: 1-20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ferreira FS, Silva NLG, Matias EFF, Brito SV, Oliveira FG et al. (2011) Potentiation of aminoglycoside antibiotic activity using the body fat from the snake Boa constrictor. Revista Brasileira de Farmacognosia 21: 503-509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ferreira FS, BRITO SV, Fernandes-Ferreira H, Alves RRN (2010a) Prospecção biológica, recursos zooterápicos e sustentabilidade. In: Zooterapia: Os Animais na Medicina Popular Brasileira, Costa Neto EM, Alves RRN (editors), Recife: Nupeea, pp 141-157Google Scholar
  37. Ferreira FS, Brito SV, Saraiva RA, Araruna MKA, Menezes IRA, et al. (2010b). Topical anti-inflammatory activity of body fat from the lizard Tupinambis merianae. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 130: 514-520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ferreira FS, Brito SV, Costa JGM, Alves RRN, Coutinho HDM, et al. (2009a) Is the body fat of the lizard Tupinambis merianae effective against bacterial infections? Journal of Ethnopharmacology 126: 233-237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ferreira FS, Brito SV, Ribeiro SC, Almeida WO, Alves RRN (2009b) Zootherapeutics utilized by residents of the community Poço Dantas, Crato-CE, Brazil. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 5: 21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Frank CL, Dierenfeld ES, Storey KB (1998) The relationship between lipid peroxidation, hibernation, and food selection in mammals. American zoologist 38: 341-349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Freitas FIS, Guedes-Stehling E, Siqueira-Junior JP. 1999. Resistance to gentamicin and related aminoglycosides in Staphylococcus aureus isolated in Brazil. Letters in applied microbiology 29: 197-201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Garnelo L, Sampaio S, Baniwa AF, Lynn G (2006) Medicina Tradicional Baniwa: Doença, poder, conflito e cura. Revista de Estudos Amazônicos 151–169Google Scholar
  43. Geldenhuys CJ (2004) Bark harvesting for traditional medicine: from illegal resource degradation to participatory management. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research 19: 103-115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Goldizen AW, Terborgh J, Cornejo F, Porras DT, Evans R (1988) Seasonal food shortage, weight loss, and the timing of births in saddle-back tamarins (Saguinus fuscicollis). The Journal of Animal Ecology 893–901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Graham-Rowe D (2011) Biodiversity: Endangered and in demand. Nature 480: 101-103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hadacek F, Greger H (2000) Testing of antifungal natural products: methodologies, comparability of results and assay choice. Phytochemical analysis 11: 137-147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Houghton PJ, Howes MJ, Lee CC, Steventon G (2007) Uses and abuses of in vitro tests in ethnopharmacology: visualizing an elephant. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 110: 391-400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Hunt B, Vincent ACJ (2006) Scale and sustainability of marine bioprospecting for pharmaceuticals. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 35: 57-64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Jain M, Johnson TS, Krishnan P (2012) Biotechnological approaches to conserve the wealth of nature: endangered and rare medicinal plant species, a review. Journal of Natural Remedies 12: 93-102Google Scholar
  50. Kikuchi R (2012) Captive Bears in Human–Animal Welfare Conflict: A Case Study of Bile Extraction on Asia’s Bear Farms. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 25: 55-77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kursar TA, Caballero-George CC, Capson TL, Cubilla-Rios L, Gerwick WH, et al. (2007) Linking bioprospecting with sustainable development and conservation: the Panama case. Biodiversity and Conservation 16: 2789-2800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Leal IR, Tabarelli M, Silva JMC (2003). Ecologia e Conservação da Caatinga. In: Ecologia e Conservação da Caatinga: Uma Introdução ao Desafio, Leal IR, Tabarelli M, Silva JMC (editors), Recife: Ed. Universitária da UFPE.Google Scholar
  53. Lévi-Strauss C (1975) A eficácia simbólica. Antropologia estrutural 4Google Scholar
  54. Liu F, Wang JG, Wang SY, Li Y, Wu YP, XI SM (2008) Antitumor effect and mechanism of Gecko on human esophageal carcinoma cell lines in vitro and xenografted sarcoma 180 in Kunming mice. World journal of gastroenterology: WJG 14: 3990CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Luo J, Yan D, Zhang D, Feng X, Yan Y, Dong X, Xiao X (2011) Substitutes for endangered medicinal animal horns and shells exposed by antithrombotic and anticoagulation effects. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 136: 210-216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Murari SK, Frey FJ, Frey BM, Gowda TV, Vishwanath BS (2005) Use of Pavo cristatus feather extract for the better management of snakebites: Neutralization of inflammatory reactions. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 99: 229-237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. McCue MD (2008) Fatty acid analyses may provide insight into the progression of starvation among squamate reptiles. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 151: 239–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Oliveira OP, Sales DL, Dias DQ, Cabral ME, Araújo-Filho JA, et al. (2014) Antimicrobial activity and chemical composition of fixed oil extracted from the body fat of the snake Spilotes pullatus. Pharmaceutical Biology 52: 740-744CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Pieroni A, Quave C, Nebel S, Heinrich M (2002) Ethnopharmacy of the ethnic Albanians (Arb resh) of northern Basilicata, Italy. Fitoterapia 73, 217-241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Ragavan S (2008) New paradigms for protection of biodiversity. Journal of Intellectual Property Rights 13: 514-522Google Scholar
  61. Raskin I, Ribnicky DM, Komarnytsky S, Ilic N, Poulev A (2002) Plants and human health in the twenty-first century. Trends Biotechnology 20,522-531CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Robinson MM, Zhang X (2011) The World Medicines Situation 2011. Traditional Medicines: Global situation, Issues and Challenges. World Health Organizational, third editionGoogle Scholar
  63. Rosa IL, Defavari GR, Alves RRN, OLIVEIRA TPR (2013) Seahorses in Traditional Medicines: A Global Overview. In: Animals in Traditional Folk Medicine, Alves, RRN, Rosa, I (editors) Berlin: Springer, pp 207-240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Rose J, Quave CL, Islam G (2012) The four-sided triangle of ethics in bioprospecting: pharmaceutical business, international politics, socio-environmental responsibility and the importance of local stakeholders. Ethnobiology and Conservation 1Google Scholar
  65. Sales DL, Oliveira OP, Cabral ME, Dias DQ, Kerntopf MR, et al. (2015) Chemical identification and evaluation of the antimicrobial activity of fixed oil extracted from Rhinella jimi. Pharmaceutical Biology 53: 98-103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Santos IJM, Leite GO, Costa JGM, Alves RRN, Campos AR, et al. (2015) Topical Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Oil from Tropidurus hispidus (Spix, 1825). Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2015: 1-8Google Scholar
  67. Santos IJM, Coutinho HDM, Matias EFF, Costa JGM, Alves RRN, et al. (2012a) Antimicrobial activity of natural products from the skins of the semiarid living lizards Ameiva ameiva (Linnaeus, 1758) and Tropidurus hispidus (Spix, 1825). Journal of Arid Environments 76: 138-141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Santos IJM, Matias EFF, Santos KKA, Braga MFBM, Andrade JC, et al. (2012b) Evaluation of the antimicrobial activity of the decoction of Tropidurus hispidus (Spix, 1825) and Tropidurus semitaeniatus (Spix, 1825) used by the traditional medicine. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012Google Scholar
  69. Synnes M (2007) Bioprospecting of organisms from the deep sea: scientific and environmental aspects. Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy 9: 53-59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Tesser CD, Luz MT (2008) Racionalidades médicas e integralidade. Ciência & Saúde Coletiva 13: 195-206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Vandebroek I, Thomas E, Sanca S, van Damme P, van Puyvelde L, et al. (2008) Comparison of health conditions treated with traditional and biomedical health care in a Quechua community in rural Bolivia. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 4: 1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Vanzolini PE, Ramos-Costa AMM, Vitt LJ (1980) Répteis das Caatingas. Rio de Janeiro: Academia Brasileira de CiênciasCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Who (2002) Traditional medicine strategy 2002–2005 [Online]. GenevaGoogle Scholar
  74. Wyld JA, Brush A H. (1983) Keratin diversity in the reptilian epidermis. Journal of Experimental Zoology 225.3: 387-396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zhang L, Hua N, Sun S (2008) Wildlife trade, consumption and conservation awareness in southwest China. Biodiversity and Conservation 17: 1493-1516CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© EcoHealth Alliance 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. S. Ferreira
    • 1
  • S. V. Brito
    • 2
  • H. D. M. Coutinho
    • 3
  • E. P. Souza
    • 4
  • W. O. Almeida
    • 3
  • R. R. N. Alves
    • 5
  1. 1.Universidade Federal do Vale do São Francisco, Colegiado Acadêmico de EcologiaSenhor do BonfimBrazil
  2. 2.Universidade Federal do Maranhão, Centro de Ciências Agrárias e AmbientaisChapadinhaBrazil
  3. 3.Departamento de Química BiológicaUniversidade Regional do CaririCratoBrazil
  4. 4.Departamento de MorfologiaUniversidade Federal do CearáFortalezaBrazil
  5. 5.Departamento de BiologiaUniversidade Estadual da ParaíbaCampina GrandeBrazil

Personalised recommendations