Determination of Legionella pneumophila susceptibility to Melaleuca alternifolia Cheel (tea tree) oil by an improved broth micro-dilution method under vapour controlled conditions

J Microbiol Methods. 2009 May;77(2):243-8. doi: 10.1016/j.mimet.2009.02.012. Epub 2009 Mar 3.


The aim of this study was to determine the in vitro activity of Melaleuca alternifolia Cheel (tea tree) oil (TTO) against 22 strains of Legionella pneumophila of different serogroup and source of isolation. Both a standard broth micro-dilution method, with slight modifications, and a micro-atmosphere diffusion method were used. Furthermore, we have established a simple sealing procedure in the micro-dilution method to determine the antibacterial activity of TTO against Legionella in aqueous phase. The results showed that L. pneumophila, quite irrespective of serogroup and source of isolation, is exquisitely sensitive to TTO, with minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) ranging from 0.125 to 0.5% v/v, and a bactericidal activity at 0.5% v/v. In addition, we show here that TTO vapours exert critical activity, that must be controlled for reproducible MIC determinations. Overall, our data suggest that TTO could be active as anti-Legionella disinfectant, for control of water system contamination, especially in spas, in small waterlines or in particular respiratory medical devices.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Gases / pharmacology*
  • Legionella pneumophila / drug effects*
  • Legionella pneumophila / growth & development
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / methods*
  • Polysorbates / pharmacology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Tea Tree Oil / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Gases
  • Polysorbates
  • Tea Tree Oil