Can phlorotannins purified extracts constitute a novel pharmacological alternative for microbial infections with associated inflammatory conditions?

PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31145. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031145. Epub 2012 Feb 2.


Bacterial and fungal infections and the emerging multidrug resistance are driving interest in fighting these microorganisms with natural products, which have generally been considered complementary to pharmacological therapies. Phlorotannins are polyphenols restricted to brown seaweeds, recognized for their biological capacity. This study represents the first research on the antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity of phlorotannins purified extracts, which were obtained from ten dominant brown seaweeds of the occidental Portuguese coast.Phlorotannins content was determined by the specific dimethoxybenzaldehyde (DMBA) method and a yield between 75 and 969 mg/Kg phloroglucinol units (dry matter) was obtained. Fucus spiralis ranked first, followed by three Cystoseira species. The anti-inflammatory potential of the purified extracts was assessed via inhibitory effect on nitric oxide (NO) production by lipopolysaccharide-stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophage cells, Cystoseira tamariscifolia being the one showing promising activity for the treatment of inflammation. NO scavenging ability was also addressed in cell free systems, F. spiralis being the species with highest capacity. The antimicrobial potential of the extracts was checked against five Gram-positive and four Gram-negative bacteria and three fungi strains, that commonly colonize skin and mucosa and are responsible for food contamination. The different extracts were more effective against Gram-positive bacteria, Staphylococcus epidermidis being the most susceptible species. Concerning antifungal activity, Trichophyton rubrum was the most sensitive species.Although the molecular mechanisms underlying these properties remain poorly understood, the results obtained turn phlorotannins purified extracts a novel and potent pharmacological alternative for the treatment of a wide range of microbial infections, which usually also present an inflammatory component. In addition to the biological properties demonstrated herein, phlorotannins extracts may also be preferred, in order to avoid side effects and allergic reactions commonly associated with synthetic drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy*
  • Bacterial Infections / pathology
  • Cell Line
  • Fungi / drug effects
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / drug effects
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Macrophages / microbiology
  • Mice
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polyphenols
  • Tannins / pharmacology*


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polyphenols
  • Tannins