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J Food Prot. 2006 Feb;69(2):354-61.

Antimicrobial activities of tea catechins and theaflavins and tea extracts against Bacillus cereus.

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Western Regional Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, Albany, California 94710, USA.


We evaluated the antimicrobial activities of seven green tea catechins and four black tea theaflavins, generally referred to as flavonoids, as well as the aqueous extracts (infusions) of 36 commercial black, green, oolong, white, and herbal teas against Bacillus cereus (strain RM3190) incubated at 21 degrees C for 3, 15, 30, and 60 min. The results obtained demonstrate that (i) (-)-gallocatechin-3-gallate, (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate, (-)-catechin-3-gallate, (-)-epicatechin-3-gallate, theaflavin-3, 3'-digallate, theaflavin-3'-gallate, and theaflavin-3-gallate showed antimicrobial activities at nanomolar levels; (ii) most compounds were more active than were medicinal antibiotics, such as tetracycline or vancomycin, at comparable concentrations; (iii) the bactericidal activities of the teas could be accounted for by the levels of catechins and theaflavins as determined by high-pressure liquid chromatography; (iv) freshly prepared tea infusions were more active than day-old teas; and (v) tea catechins without gallate side chains, gallic acid and the alkaloids caffeine and theobromine also present in teas, and herbal (chamomile and peppermint) teas that contain no flavonoids are all inactive. These studies extend our knowledge about the antimicrobial effects of food ingredients.

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