Phytochemicals for human disease: An update on plant-derived compounds antibacterial activity

Microbiol Res. 2017 Mar:196:44-68. doi: 10.1016/j.micres.2016.12.003. Epub 2016 Dec 19.


In recent years, many studies have shown that phytochemicals exert their antibacterial activity through different mechanisms of action, such as damage to the bacterial membrane and suppression of virulence factors, including inhibition of the activity of enzymes and toxins, and bacterial biofilm formation. In this review, we summarise data from the available literature regarding the antibacterial effects of the main phytochemicals belonging to different chemical classes, alkaloids, sulfur-containing phytochemicals, terpenoids, and polyphenols. Some phytochemicals, besides having direct antimicrobial activity, showed an in vitro synergistic effect when tested in combination with conventional antibiotics, modifying antibiotic resistance. Review of the literature showed that phytochemicals represent a possible source of effective, cheap and safe antimicrobial agents, though much work must still be carried out, especially in in vivo conditions to ensure the selection of effective antimicrobial substances with low side and adverse effects.

Keywords: Alkaloids; Antimicrobial activity; Polyphenols; Sulfur-containing phytochemicals; Terpenoids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / chemistry
  • Alkaloids / classification
  • Alkaloids / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / economics
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy
  • Carotenoids / chemistry
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Phytochemicals / chemistry
  • Phytochemicals / economics
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / economics
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Polyphenols / chemistry
  • Polyphenols / classification
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology
  • Terpenes / chemistry
  • Terpenes / classification
  • Terpenes / pharmacology


  • Alkaloids
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Phytochemicals
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polyphenols
  • Terpenes
  • Carotenoids