Abstract Title:

Photokilling of bacteria by the natural dye curcumin.

Abstract Source:

Arch Microbiol. 1989;151(2):183-5. PMID: 2655550

Abstract Author(s):

T A Dahl, W M McGowan, M A Shand, V S Srinivasan

Article Affiliation:

Center for Photochemical Sciences, Bowling Green State University, OH 43403.


Curcumin is a yellow-orange compound derived from the root of Curcuma longa (Zingiberaceae family), that has been used as a medicine, spice and coloring agent. Curcumin has proved nontoxic in a number of cell culture and whole animal studies. Curcumin has, however, been reported to have bactericidal effects at very high concentrations. When illuminated, curcumin exerted potent phototoxic effects in micromolar amounts. Gram-negative bacteria displayed greater resistance to curcumin phototoxicity relative to Gram-positive bacteria. Oxygen was required for curcumin phototoxicity. Curcumin binding to cells was not required for photokilling; the reactive intermediate therefore must be relatively long-lived. The mechanism(s) of curcumin phototoxicity may involve hydrogen peroxide production. Singlet excited oxygen was not detected.

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