Antifungal activity of tea tree oil from Melaleuca alternifolia against Trichophyton equinum: an in vivo assay

Phytomedicine. 2009 Nov;16(11):1056-8. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2009.03.013. Epub 2009 Apr 28.


Dermatophytes are a group of keratinophilic and keratinolytic molds, some of which are responsible for ringworm. Among them Trichophyton equinum, which mostly infects equids, can cause extensive outbreaks in stud farms. The conventional treatment of equine trichophytosis is topic, based upon medicated shampoos to reduce the spread of infection among the animals. Nevertheless the popularity of phytotherapy is at an all-time peak, and the interest for natural alternatives or complements to conventional drug therapy is challenging both in human and veterinary field. Among herbal remedia Tea Tree Oil (TTO) shows a wide range of antimicrobial activities. A randomized open clinical trial was carried out on 60 thoroughbred breeding horses affected by equine ringworm. The animals were randomly divided into 2 groups of 30 subjects. Diagnostic criteria were the presence of clinical signs and positive T. equinum culture. Specificity control using TTO mixture in 5 not dermatophyte affected animals was achieved also. The antimycotic activity against T. equinum of a mixture containing 25% TTO in sweet almond oil, was evaluated in vivo treating 30 subjects, the others were administered enilconazole 2% solution. The animals of both groups were topically treated twice a day for 15 days with a 25% mixture of TTO diluted in sweet almond oil and every 3 days, four times with enilconazole rinses, respectively. The clinical and mycological outcome were evaluated at day 30 from the start of the treatments. Data analysis was performed by chi square test. All the treated animals showed complete clinical and aetiological healing. Part of control subjects also, showed an improvement and none of them exacerbate the lesions. This therapeutic protocol appears to be effective and versatile, being applicable immediately after physical examination, prior to have the laboratory response. It could be an alternative for practitioners interested in herbal medicines, contributing to fulfill the gap existing between in vitro and clinical studies.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / therapeutic use*
  • Antifungal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Horse Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Horses
  • Melaleuca
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Tea Tree Oil / therapeutic use*
  • Tinea / drug therapy
  • Tinea / veterinary*


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Antifungal Agents
  • Tea Tree Oil