Superficial dermatophyte infections, commonly known as tineas, are the most prevalent fungal ailment and are increasing in incidence, leading to an interest in alternative treatments. Many floral honeys possess antimicrobial activity due to high sugar, low pH, and the production of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) from the activity of the bee-derived enzyme glucose oxidase. Australian jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) honey produces particularly high levels of H2O2 and has been found to be potently antifungal. This study characterized the activity of jarrah honey on fungal dermatophyte species. Jarrah honey inhibited dermatophytes with minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of 1.5-3.5% (w/v), which increased to ≥25% (w/v) when catalase was added. Microscopic analysis found jarrah honey inhibited the germination of Trichophyton rubrum conidia and scanning electron microscopy of mature T. rubrum hyphae after honey treatment revealed bulging and collapsed regions. When treated hyphae were stained using REDOX fluorophores these did not detect any internal oxidative stress, suggesting jarrah honey acts largely on the hyphal surface. Although H2O2 appears critical for the antifungal activity of jarrah honey and its action on fungal cells, these effects persisted when H2O2 was eliminated and could not be replicated using synthetic honey spiked with H2O2, indicating jarrah honey contains agents that augment antifungal activity.
Keywords: Trichophyton rubrum; antifungal activity; dermatophytes; honey; hydrogen peroxide.