Antifungal activity and mode of action of thymol and its synergism with nystatin against Candida species involved with infections in the oral cavity: an in vitro study

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015 Nov 24:15:417. doi: 10.1186/s12906-015-0947-2.


Background: Limitations of antifungal agents used in the treatment of oral candidiasis, as the development of resistant strains, are known by the scientific community. In this context, the aim of this study was to evaluate the antifungal activity of thymol against Candida albicans, Candida tropicalis and Candida krusei strains and to determine its mode of action and synergistic effect when combined with the synthetic antifungal nystatin.

Methods: The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) was determined using a microdilution technique, and the minimum fungicidal concentration (MFC) was determined via subculture sowing. The mode of action of thymol was established by verifying fungal growth in the presence of sorbitol or ergosterol. The fractional inhibitory concentration index (FIC) was determined using the checkerboard method.

Results: Thymol presented an antifungal effect, with MICs of 39 μg/mL for C. albicans and C. krusei and 78 μg/mL for C. tropicalis. The results of the antifungal test remained unchanged in the presence of sorbitol; however, the MIC value of thymol against C. albicans increased eight times (from 39.0 to 312.5 μg/mL) in presence of exogenous ergosterol. The combination of thymol and nystatin reduced the MIC values of both products by 87.4%, generating an FIC index of 0.25.

Conclusions: Thymol was found to have a fungicidal effect on Candida species and a synergistic effect when combined with nystatin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Candida / classification
  • Candida / drug effects*
  • Candida / growth & development
  • Candidiasis, Oral / drug therapy
  • Candidiasis, Oral / microbiology*
  • Drug Synergism
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Mouth / microbiology
  • Nystatin / pharmacology*
  • Thymol / pharmacology*


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Nystatin
  • Thymol