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Parasitol Res. 2009 Nov;105(6):1489-96. doi: 10.1007/s00436-009-1578-7. Epub 2009 Aug 11.

In vitro activity of the essential oil of Cymbopogon citratus and its major component (citral) on Leishmania amazonensis.

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Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciências Farmacêuticas, Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Maringá, PR, Brazil.


Leishmaniasis causes considerable mortality throughout the world, affecting more than 12 million people. Cymbopogon citratus (DC) Stapf, Family Poaceae, is a widely used herb in tropical countries and is also known as a source of ethnomedicines. In this study, the inhibitory effect and the morphological and ultrastructural alterations on Leishmania amazonensis by the essential oil (EO) of C. citratus and its main constituent, citral, were evaluated. The results showed that the antiproliferative activity of EO on promastigotes and axenic amastigotes, and intracellular amastigote forms of L. amazonensis was significantly better than citral, and indicated a dose-dependent effect. Neither compound showed a cytotoxic effect on macrophage strain J774G8. The promastigote forms of L. amazonensis underwent remarkable morphological and ultrastructural alterations compared with untreated cultures. These alterations were visible by light, scanning, and transmission electron microscopy of promastigotes treated with EO and citral at concentrations corresponding to the IC(50) (1.7 and 8.0 microg/ml) and IC(90) (3.2 and 25 microg/ml), respectively, after 72 h of incubation. This study revealed that citral-rich essential oil from C. citratus has promising antileishmanial properties, and is a good candidate for further research to develop a new anti-protozoan drug.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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