Antimicrobial activity of essential oils against multidrug-resistant clinical isolates of the Burkholderia cepacia complex

Vasireddy L, Bingle LEH, Davies MS
PLoS ONE, 2018


Members of the Burkholderia cepacia complex (Bcc) are an important cause of opportunistic or nosocomial infections that may be hard to treat due to a high incidence of multidrug resistance. We characterised a collection of 51 clinical isolates from this complex, assigning them to 18 sequence types using multi-locus sequence type analysis. Resistance to eight commonly used antibiotics was assessed using by using agar-dilution assays to calculate MICs and widespread and heterogeneous multidrug resistance was confirmed, with eight strains proving resistant to all antibiotics tested. Disc diffusion screening of antimicrobial activity of a range of plant essential oils against these Bcc isolates identified six oils with significant activity (lavender, lemongrass, marjoram, peppermint, tea tree and rosewood) and broth microdilution assays indicated that of these lemongrass and rosewood oils had the highest activity, with MIC50 values of 0.5% and MIC90 values of 1%. Comparison of MIC and MBC values showed that four of these six oils, including lemongrass and rosewood, were bacteriocidal rather than bacteriostatic in their effects. Qualitative analysis of the four bacteriocidal essential oils via GC/MS indicated the presence of 55 different component compounds, mostly monoterpenes. We assessed selected essential oil components as anti-Bcc agents and demonstrated that terpinen-4-ol and geraniol were effective with MICs of 0.125-0.5% (v/v) and 0.125-1% (v/v), respectively. Time-kill studies indicate that these two alcohols are effective against non-growing cells in an efflux-dependent manner. Analysis of bacterial leakage of potassium ions and 260 nm UV-absorbing material on treatment with terpinen-4-ol and geraniol suggested that the observed anti-Bcc activity was a consequence of membrane disruption. This finding was supported by a gas chromatography analysis of bacterial fatty acid methyl esters, which indicated changes in membrane fatty acid composition caused by terpinen-4-ol and geraniol. These essential oils or oil components may ultimately prove useful as therapeutic drugs, for example to treat Bcc infections in CF patients.


Vasireddy L, Bingle LEH, Davies MS. Antimicrobial activity of essential oils against multidrug-resistant clinical isolates of the Burkholderia cepacia complex. PLoS ONE. 2018;13(8):e0201835.

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