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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Some southern African plant species used to treat helminth infections in ethnoveterinary medicine have excellent antifungal activities

Mathew Adamu12, Vinasan Naidoo1 and Jacobus N Eloff1*

Author Affiliations

1 Phytomedicine Programme, Department of Paraclinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, Pretoria, 0110, South Africa

2 Permanent address: Department of Veterinary Parasitology and Entomology College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Agriculture Makurdi, Makurdi, Nigeria

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012, 12:213  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-213

Published: 7 November 2012



Diseases caused by microorganisms and parasites remain a major challenge globally and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa to man and livestock. Resistance to available antimicrobials and the high cost or unavailability of antimicrobials complicates matters. Many rural people use plants to treat these infections. Because some anthelmintics e.g. benzimidazoles also have good antifungal activity we examined the antifungal activity of extracts of 13 plant species used in southern Africa to treat gastrointestinal helminth infections in livestock and in man.


Antifungal activity of acetone leaf extracts was determined by serial microdilution with tetrazolium violet as growth indicator against Aspergillus fumigatus, Cryptococcus neoformans and Candida albicans. These pathogens play an important role in opportunistic infections of immune compromised patients. Cytotoxicity was determined by MTT cellular assay. Therapeutic indices were calculated and selectivity for different pathogens determined. We proposed a method to calculate the relation between microbicidal and microbistatic activities. Total activities for different plant species were calculated.


On the whole, all 13 extracts had good antifungal activities with MIC values as low as 0.02 mg/mL for extracts of Clausena anisata against Aspergillus fumigatus and 0.04 mg/mL for extracts of Zanthoxylum capense, Clerodendrum glabrum, and Milletia grandis, against A. fumigatus. Clausena anisata extracts had the lowest cytotoxicity (LC50) of 0.17 mg/mL, a reasonable therapeutic index (2.65) against A. fumigatus. It also had selective activity against A. fumigatus, an overall fungicidal activity of 98% and a total activity of 3395 mL/g against A. fumigatus. This means that 1 g of acetone leaf extract can be diluted to 3.4 litres and it would still inhibit the growth. Clerodendrum glabrum, Zanthoxylum capense and Milletia grandis extracts also yielded promising results.


Some plant extracts used for treatment of parasitic infections also have good antifungal activity. Because it is much easier to isolate antifungal compounds by bioassay guided fractionation, this approach may facilitate the isolation of anthelmintic compounds from active plant extracts. The viability of this approach can be tested by isolating the antifungal compounds and then determining its anthelmintic activity. Some of these plant extracts may also be useful in combating fungal infections.

Antifungal; Candida; Cryptococcus; Aspergillus; Anthelmintic; Therapeutic index; Selectivity; Plant extract; Immune compromised patients