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Phytomedicine. 2012 Mar 15;19(5):409-12. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2011.10.005. Epub 2012 Feb 2.

Eradication of Propionibacterium acnes biofilms by plant extracts and putative identification of icariin, resveratrol and salidroside as active compounds.

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Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Microbiology, Ghent University, Harelbekestraat 72, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium.


Propionibacterium acnes is a Gram-positive bacterium that plays an important role in the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris. This organism is capable of biofilm formation and the decreased antimicrobial susceptibility of biofilm-associated cells may hamper efficient treatment. In addition, the prolonged use of systemic antibiotic therapy is likely to lead to the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance. In the present study we investigated whether P. acnes biofilms could be eradicated by plant extracts or their active compounds, and whether other mechanisms besides killing of biofilm cells could be involved. Out of 119 plant extracts investigated, we identified five with potent antibiofilm activity against P. acnes (extracts from Epimedium brevicornum, Malus pumila, Polygonum cuspidatum, Rhodiola crenulata and Dolichos lablab). We subsequently identified icariin, resveratrol and salidroside as active compounds in three of these extracts. Extracts from E. brevicornum and P. cuspidatum, as well as their active compounds (icariin and resveratrol, respectively) showed marked antibiofilm activity when used in subinhibitory concentrations, indicating that killing of microbial cells is not their only mode of action.

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