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J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Jul 19;106(3):290-302. Epub 2006 Apr 18.

Anti-infective potential of natural products: how to develop a stronger in vitro 'proof-of-concept'.

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Laboratory for Microbiology, Parasitology and Hygiene (LMPH), Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, 2610 Antwerp, Belgium.


Natural products, either as pure compounds or as standardized plant extracts, provide unlimited opportunities for new drug leads because of the unmatched availability of chemical diversity. To secure this, a number of pivotal quality standards need to be set at the level of extract processing and primary evaluation in pharmacological screening models. This review provides a number of recommendations that will help to define a more sound 'proof-of-concept' for antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and antiparasitic potential in natural products. An integrated panel of pathogens is proposed for antimicrobial profiling, using accessible standard in vitro experimental procedures, endpoint parameters and efficacy criteria. Primary requirements include: (1) use of reference strains or fully characterized clinical isolates, (2) in vitro models on the whole organism and if possible cell-based, (3) evaluation of selectivity by parallel cytotoxicity testing and/or integrated profiling against unrelated micro-organisms, (4) adequately broad dose range, enabling dose-response curves, (5) stringent endpoint criteria with IC(50)-values generally below 100microug/ml for extracts and below 25microM for pure compounds, (6) proper preparation, storage and in-test processing of extracts, (7) inclusion of appropriate controls in each in vitro test replicate (blanks, infected and reference controls) and (8) follow-up of in vitro activity ('hit'-status) in matching animal models ('lead'-status).

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