An Overview of Antimicrobial Properties of Different Classes of Phytochemicals



Plants produce a great diversity of phytochemicals, the beneficial properties of which have been used by humans for centuries since the advent of human civilization. With the discovery of effective and potent antimicrobial compounds, these synthetic antimicrobial compounds are widely used to prevent and cure microbial diseases. However, the development of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, reduced efficacy and safety of antimicrobials and the search of new antimicrobials against emerging incurable diseases by conventional antimicrobial agents have revived to explore phytochemicals as an alternative to synthetic antimicrobial compounds. Although numerous studies have been conducted in vitro and in vivo in the recent years on the efficacy of plant phytochemicals as antimicrobial agents, this chapter provides an overview of the antimicrobial properties of some major group of phytochemicals, namely, different phenolic compounds, alkaloids, saponins, iridoids and secoiridoids, polyacetylenes, glucosinolates, terpenoids, sulfinate, limonoids (tetranortepenoids) and anthranoids against pathogenic bacteria, fungi, viruses and commensal bacteria in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals. This chapter also discusses their antimicrobial mechanisms of action, the efficiency of different groups of phytochemicals against multiple-drug resistant bacteria, the effect of active dietary phytometabolites on the beneficial and pathogenic microbes of the gastrointestinal tracts and the outcomes of combination of phytofactors and drugs interactions.


Phytochemicals Medicinal plants Antimicrobial Antiviral Antifungal Mechanism of action 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal NutritionWest Bengal University of Animal and Fishery SciencesKolkataIndia

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