Antimicrobial Capacity of Plant Polyphenols against Gram-positive Bacteria: A Comprehensive Review

Curr Med Chem. 2020;27(15):2576-2606. doi: 10.2174/0929867325666181008115650.


Background: Multi-drug-resistant bacteria such as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) disseminate rapidly amongst patients in healthcare facilities and suppose an increasingly important cause of community-associated infections and associated mortality. The development of effective therapeutic options against resistant bacteria is a public health priority. Plant polyphenols are structurally diverse compounds that have been used for centuries for medicinal purposes, including infections treatment and possess, not only antimicrobial activity, but also antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities among others. Based on the existing evidence on the polyphenols' antibacterial capacity, polyphenols may be postulated as an alternative or complementary therapy for infectious diseases.

Objective: To review the antimicrobial activity of plant polyphenols against Gram-positive bacteria, especially against S. aureus and its resistant strains. Determine the main bacterial molecular targets of polyphenols and their potential mechanism of action.

Methodology: The most relevant reports on plant polyphenols' antibacterial activity and their putative molecular targets were studied. We also performed virtual screening of thousand different polyphenols against proteins involved in the peptidoglycan biosynthesis to find potential valuable bioactive compounds. The bibliographic information used in this review was obtained from MEDLINE via PubMed.

Results: Several polyphenols: phenolic acids, flavonoids (especially flavonols), tannins, lignans, stilbenes and combinations of these in botanical mixtures, have exhibited significant antibacterial activity against resistant and non-resistant Gram-positive bacteria at low μg/mL range MIC values. Their mechanism of action is quite diverse, targeting cell wall, lipid membrane, membrane receptors and ion channels, bacteria metabolites and biofilm formation. Synergic effects were also demonstrated for some combinations of polyphenols and antibiotics.

Conclusion: Plant polyphenols mean a promising source of antibacterial agents, either alone or in combination with existing antibiotics, for the development of new antibiotic therapies.

Keywords: Antibacterial; Gram-positive; Staphyloccocus aureus; bacterial cell wall; bacterial resistance; plant polyphenols; synergy..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polyphenols*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polyphenols