Candida albicans is the causative agent of fatal systemic candidiasis. Due to limitations of antifungals, new drugs are needed. The anti-virulence effect of plant essential oils (EOs) was evaluated against clinical C. albicans isolates including cinnamon, clove, jasmine and rosemary oils. Biofilm, phospholipase and hemolysin were assessed phenotypically. EOs were evaluated for their anti-virulence activity using phenotypic methods as well as scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM). Among the C. albicans isolates, biofilm, phospholipase and hemolysins were detected in 40.4, 86.5 and 78.8% of isolates, respectively. Jasmine oil showed the highest anti-biofilm activity followed by cinnamon, clove and rosemary oils. SEM and AFM analysis showed reduced adherence and roughness in the presence of EOs. For phospholipase, rosemary oil was the most inhibitory, followed by jasmine, cinnamon and clove oils, and for hemolysins, cinnamon had the highest inhibition followed by jasmine, rosemary and clove oils. A molecular docking study revealed major EO constituents as promising inhibitors of the Als3 adhesive protein, with the highest binding for eugenol, followed by 1,8-cineole, 2-phenylthiolane and cinnamaldehyde. In conclusion, EOs have a promising inhibitory impact on Candida biofilm, phospholipase and hemolysin production, hence EOs could be used as potential antifungals that impact virulence factors.
Keywords: AFM; Candida albicans; SEM; biofilm; essential oils; hemolysin; jasmine oil; molecular docking; phospholipase.