Extracts of the roots of plants of the Geraniaceae family have been used for many years in South Africa as native herbal remedies and there is circumstantial evidence for efficacy in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. We have examined dried roots of Pelargonium reniforme and P. sidoides for antibacterial activity against rapidly growing mycobacteria. Fractions with activity against Mycobacterium aurum and M. smegmatis were obtained from both plant species by bioassay-guided fractionation of n-hexane extracts and were found to contain mixtures of straight-chain fatty acids. Analysis by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) of the corresponding fatty acid methyl esters revealed structures with chain lengths ranging from C12 to C26. Unsaturated compounds were analysed as the corresponding dimethyl disulfide adducts to determine double-bond positions. Active mixtures differed in the relative abundance of their components, but all contained 16:0 (palmitic), Δ9-18:1 (oleic) and Δ9,12-18:2 (linoleic acid) as the major components. When tested against M. aurum, M. smegmatis and other rapidly growing mycobacteria (M. fortuitum, M. abscessus and M. phlei), all saturated compounds except 12:0 were devoid of antimycobacterial activity, whereas unsaturated compounds showed antimycobacterial activity related to their degree of unsaturation, their chain length and the bacterial species tested. The most potent compound was linoleic acid, with MIC of 2 mg/l against M. aurum.
- herbal remedy
- bioassay-guided fractionation
- antibacterial fatty acids