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Open Access Research article

In vitro antibacterial, antioxidant and cytotoxic activity of acetone leaf extracts of nine under-investigated Fabaceae tree species leads to potentially useful extracts in animal health and productivity

Jean P Dzoyem12, Lyndy J McGaw1 and Jacobus N Eloff1*

Author Affiliations

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

2 Present address: Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Dschang, P.O. Box 67, Dschang, Cameroon

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:147  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-147

Published: 5 May 2014



The Fabaceae family is the second largest family of medicinal plants, containing more than 490 species which are being used as traditional medicine. The aim of this study was to determine the antioxidant and antibacterial activity as well as the cytotoxicity of acetone leaf extracts of nine tree species from the Fabaceae family that have not been investigated well previously for possible use in animal health and production.


The antibacterial activity was determined by a serial microdilution method against three Gram-positive and three Gram-negative bacteria. Antioxidant activity was determined using free-radical scavenging assays. The safety of the extracts was ascertained using the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay on Vero African green monkey kidney cells.


Six of the nine acetone extracts had significant antibacterial activity against at least one of the six bacterial species with (MIC 20–80 μg/mL). The Crotalaria capensis extract had the highest activity against Salmonella typhimurium, followed by Indigofera cylindrica with MICs of 20 μg/mL and 40 μg/mL respectively. The Dalbergia nitidula extract had free radical scavenging capacity (IC50 of 9.31 ± 2.14 μg/mL) close to that of the positive control Trolox in the DPPH assay. The Xylia torreana extract also had high activity (IC50 of 14.56 ± 3.96 μg/mL) in the ABTS assay. There was a good correlation between antioxidant activity and total phenolic content (R2 values > 0.8). The extracts had weak or no toxicity to Vero cells, compared to the positive control doxorubicin with the LC50 varying from 10.70 ± 3.47 to 131.98 ± 24.87 μg/mL at the concentrations tested.


Extracts of D. nitidula, X. torreana, C. capensis and I. cylindrica had a low cytotoxicity and high antimicrobial and/or antioxidant activity. These species are therefore promising candidates for the development of useful antimicrobial/antioxidant preparations with a low cytotoxicity that may be useful in promoting animal health and productivity.

Antioxidant; Antimicrobial; Cytotoxicity; Efficacy; Fabaceae; Safety