Effect of tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) on the longevity and immune response of rats infected by Trypanosoma evansi

Res Vet Sci. 2014 Jun;96(3):501-6. doi: 10.1016/j.rvsc.2014.03.013. Epub 2014 Mar 31.


This study aimed to evaluate the effect of tea tree oil (TTO - Melaleuca alternifolia) on hepatic and renal functions, and the immune response of rats infected by Trypanosoma evansi. A pilot study has shown that rats treated with TTO orally (1 ml kg(-1)) had increased survival rate without curative effect. In order to verify if increased longevity was related to a better immune response against T. evansi when using tea tree oil, a second experiment was conducted. Thus, twenty-four rats were divided into four groups. The groups A and B were composed of uninfected animals, and the groups C and D had rats experimentally infected by T. evansi. Animals from the groups B and D were treated orally with TTO (1 ml kg(-1)) for three days. Blood samples were collected to verify humoral response analysis for immunoglobulins (IgA, IgM, IgE, and IgG) and cytokines (TNF-α, INF-γ, IL-1, IL-6, IL-4, and IL-10) at days 0, 3, 5 and 15 post-infection (PI). TTO treatment caused changes in the immunoglobulins and cytokines profile, as well as the course of T. evansi infection in rats. It was found that the TTO was not toxic, i.e., hepatic and renal functions were not affected. Therefore, it is possible to conclude that TTO influences the levels of inflammatory mediators and has trypanocidal effect, increasing life expectancy of rats infected by T. evansi.

Keywords: Immunology system; TTO; Trypanocidal action; Trypanosoma evansi.

MeSH terms

  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Animals
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases / blood
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Immunity, Humoral / drug effects*
  • Immunoglobulins / blood
  • Immunoglobulins / immunology
  • Male
  • Melaleuca / immunology*
  • Parasitemia / drug therapy*
  • Parasitemia / immunology
  • Parasitemia / parasitology
  • Pilot Projects
  • Rats
  • Tea Tree Oil / administration & dosage
  • Tea Tree Oil / pharmacology*
  • Tea Tree Oil / therapeutic use
  • Trypanosoma / immunology*
  • Trypanosomiasis / drug therapy*
  • Trypanosomiasis / immunology
  • Trypanosomiasis / parasitology
  • Urea / blood


  • Cytokines
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Urea
  • Creatinine
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases
  • Alanine Transaminase