Insect Cecropins, Antimicrobial Peptides with Potential Therapeutic Applications

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Nov 22;20(23):5862. doi: 10.3390/ijms20235862.


The alarming escalation of infectious diseases resistant to conventional antibiotics requires urgent global actions, including the development of new therapeutics. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) represent potential alternatives in the treatment of multi-drug resistant (MDR) infections. Here, we focus on Cecropins (Cecs), a group of naturally occurring AMPs in insects, and on synthetic Cec-analogs. We describe their action mechanisms and antimicrobial activity against MDR bacteria and other pathogens. We report several data suggesting that Cec and Cec-analog peptides are promising antibacterial therapeutic candidates, including their low toxicity against mammalian cells, and anti-inflammatory activity. We highlight limitations linked to the use of peptides as therapeutics and discuss methods overcoming these constraints, particularly regarding the introduction of nanotechnologies. New formulations based on natural Cecs would allow the development of drugs active against Gram-negative bacteria, and those based on Cec-analogs would give rise to therapeutics effective against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative pathogens. Cecs and Cec-analogs might be also employed to coat biomaterials for medical devices as an approach to prevent biomaterial-associated infections. The cost of large-scale production is discussed in comparison with the economic and social burden resulting from the progressive diffusion of MDR infectious diseases.

Keywords: Cec-analogs; Cecropins; MDR infectious diseases; antimicrobial peptides; insects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides* / immunology
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides* / therapeutic use
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial* / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial* / immunology
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / immunology*
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections* / drug therapy
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections* / immunology
  • Humans
  • Insect Proteins* / therapeutic use


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Insect Proteins