Discovery of antibacterial dietary spices that target antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Dan Zhang, Ren You Gan*, Arakkaveettil Kabeer Farha, Gowoon Kim, Qiong Qiong Yang, Xian Ming Shi, Chun Lei Shi, Qi Xia Luo, Xue Bin Xu, Hua Bin Li, Harold Corke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Although spice extracts are well known to exhibit antibacterial properties, there is lack of a comprehensive evaluation of the antibacterial effect of spices against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In the present study, ethanolic extracts from a total of 67 spices were comprehensively investigated for their in vitro antibacterial activities by agar well diffusion against two common food-borne bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella enteritidis, with multi-drug resistance. Results showed that S. aureus was generally more sensitive to spice extracts than S. enteritidis. Of the 67 spice extracts, 38 exhibited antibacterial activity against drug-resistant S. aureus, while only four samples were effective on drug-resistant S. enteritidis. In addition, 11 spice extracts with inhibition zones greater than 15 mm were further verified for their broad-spectrum antibacterial properties using another 10 drug-resistant S. aureus strains. It was found that five spice extracts, including galangal, fructus galangae, cinnamon, yellow mustard seed, and rosemary, exhibited the highest antibacterial capacity. Further cytotoxicity of these 11 spices was determined and LC50 values were found to be more than 100 µg/mL except for galangal, rosemary, and sage, whose LC50 values were 9.32 ± 0.83, 19.77 ± 2.17, and 50.54 ± 2.57, respectively. Moreover, the antioxidant activities (ferric-reducing antioxidant power (FRAP) and trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC) values) and total phenolic content (TPC) of spice extracts were determined to establish possible correlations with the antibacterial activity. Although the antibacterial effect was positively correlated with the antioxidant activities and TPC, the correlation was weak (r < 0.5), indicating that the antibacterial activity could also be attributed to other components besides antioxidant polyphenols in the tested spice extracts. In conclusion, dietary spices are good natural sources of antibacterial agents to fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, with potential applications as natural food preservatives and natural alternatives to antibiotics in animal feeding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number157
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Antibacterial activity
  • Antioxidant activity
  • Correlation
  • Drug resistant bacteria
  • Spice extracts
  • Total phenolic content


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