Antimicrobial activity of berberine alone and in combination with ampicillin or oxacillin against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

J Med Food. 2005 Winter;8(4):454-61. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2005.8.454.


Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria have been responsible for substantial morbidity and mortality in hospitals because they usually have multidrug resistance. Some natural products are candidates as new antibiotic substances. In the present study, we investigated the antimicrobial activity of berberine, the main antibacterial substance of Coptidis rhizoma (Coptis chinensis Franch) and Phellodendri cortex (Phellodendron amurense Ruprecht), against clinical isolates of MRSA, and the effects of berberine on the adhesion to MRSA and intracellular invasion into human gingival fibroblasts (HGFs). Berberine showed antimicrobial activity against all tested strains of MRSA. Minimum inhibition concentrations (MICs) of berberine against MRSA ranged from 32 to 128 microg/mL. Ninety percent inhibition of MRSA was obtained with 64 microg/mL or less of berberine. In the checkerboard dilution test, berberine markedly lowered the MICs of ampicillin and oxacillin against MRSA. An additive effect was found between berberine and ampicillin, and a synergistic effect was found between berberine and oxacillin against MRSA. In the presence of 1-50 microg/mL berberine, MRSA adhesion and intracellular invasion were notably decreased compared with the vehicle-treated control group. These results suggest that berberine may have antimicrobial activity and the potential to restore the effectiveness of beta-lactam antibiotics against MRSA, and inhibit the MRSA adhesion and intracellular invasion in HGFs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ampicillin / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Infective Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Bacterial Adhesion / drug effects
  • Berberine / administration & dosage
  • Berberine / pharmacology*
  • Fibroblasts / microbiology
  • Gingiva / cytology
  • Humans
  • Methicillin Resistance*
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Oxacillin / administration & dosage*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Berberine
  • Ampicillin
  • Oxacillin