Aims: To investigate the effects of berries and berry phenolics on pathogenic intestinal bacteria and to identify single phenolic compounds being responsible for antimicrobial activity.
Methods and results: Antimicrobial activity of eight Nordic berries and their phenolic extracts and purified phenolic fractions were measured against eight selected human pathogens. Pathogenic bacterial strains, both Gram-positive and Gram-negative, were selectively inhibited by bioactive berry compounds. Cloudberry and raspberry were the best inhibitors, and Staphylococcus and Salmonella the most sensitive bacteria. Phenolic compounds, especially ellagitannins, were strong inhibitory compounds against Staphylococcus bacteria. Salmonella bacteria were only partly inhibited by the berry phenolics, and most of the inhibition seemed to originate from other compounds, such as organic acids. Listeria strains were not affected by berry compounds, with the exception of cranberry. Phenolic compounds affect the bacteria in different mechanisms.
Conclusions: Berries and their phenolics selectively inhibit the growth of human pathogenic bacteria.
Significance and impact of the study: Antimicrobial properties of berries could be utilized in functional foods. Furthermore these compounds would be of high interest for further evaluation of their properties as natural antimicrobial agents for food and pharmaceutical industry.