The search for novel anti-infectives is one of the most important challenges in natural product research, as diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi are influencing the human society all over the world. Natural compounds are a continuing source of novel anti-infectives. Accordingly, curcumin has been used for centuries in Asian traditional medicine to treat various disorders. Numerous studies have shown that curcumin possesses a wide spectrum of biological and pharmacological properties, acting, for example, as an anti-inflammatory, anti-angiogenic, and anti-neoplastic, while no toxicity is associated with the compound. Recently, curcumin’s antiviral and antibacterial activity was investigated, and it was shown to act against various important human pathogens like the influenza virus, hepatitis C virus, HIV, and strains of Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Pseudomonas.
This review summarizes the current knowledge and future perspectives of the antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal effects of curcumin.
Infectious diseases are ailments caused by pathogenic viruses and microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. Infections can spread directly from person to person and from animal to human, or indirectly via contaminated water and food. This can result in small local outbreaks and epidemics, like the plague, syphilis, and SARS, or pandemics affecting several countries, of which the flu is one of the best-known examples. In times of globalization and climate change, infectious diseases are spreading more rapidly than ever before, and new ones continue to emerge. Even though they are a global health burden, inhabitants of developing countries especially suffer from infections. Accordingly in 2010, worldwide, roughly one-quarter of deaths were due to infectious diseases, while in low-income countries, nearly 60% of fatalities could be attributed to them (Dye, 2015). This is primarily because in these regions often hygienic measures are insufficient, diagnostic tools are lacking and therapeutic options are not available.
Existing medications are categorized into antivirals used to combat viral diseases, antibiotics contradicting bacterial infections, and antifungals inhibiting the growth of fungi. In addition, multiple vaccines preventing viral and bacterial diseases exist, which has already led to the successful eradication of smallpox. However, countermeasures are available only for a limited number of pathogens, not including all potentially lethal and pandemic agents, as e.g., Ebola virus and resistance to current therapies are increasing. Thus, new therapeutic options are urgently needed. Natural compounds are a continuing source of new drugs. From 1940 to 2
014, 49% of all small molecules approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were natural products or derivates directly linked to them (Newman and Cragg, 2016). One plant that has been extensively studied on that score is turmeric.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) belongs to the family of ginger (Zingiberaceae) and natively grows in India and Southeast Asia. The plant’s rhizomes contain several secondary metabolites including curcuminoids, sesquiterpenes, and steroids (Omosa et al., 2017); with the curcuminoid curcumin being the principal component of the yellow pigment and the major bioactive substance. Chemically, curcumin is a diferuloylmethane, a diarylheptanoid belonging to the class of natural phenols. Its chemical structure has been described already in 1910 as a symmetric molecule of two phenol rings connected by α,β-unsaturated carbonyl groups(Miłobȩdzka et al., 1910).
The use of curcumin is not associated with toxicity, and the FDA categorized it as “Generally Recognized As Safe.” Thus, the medical properties of natural products have been widely investigated. Today, a literature search at pubmed.gov finds over 11,000 publications, while a quest at clinicaltrials.gov reveals 179 clinical studies using curcumin. Most studies analyzed curcumin’s anti-cancer effect and it has been shown to inhibit tumor cell proliferation, invasion, and metastatic dissemination (as reviewed, e.g., Bachmeier et al., 2018). Besides this, curcumin has been documented to act, e.g., anti-inflammatory and anti-infective (as reviewed, e.g., Hatcher et al., 2008) and due to its wide spectrum of biological and pharmacological properties it is often called “cure-cumin.”
For curcumin, an antiviral activity was observed against several different viruses including hepatitis viruses, influenza viruses, and emerging arboviruses like the Zika virus (ZIKV) or chikungunya virus (CHIKV). Interestingly, it has also been reported that the molecule inhibits human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2), and human papillomavirus (HPV), indicating that curcumin reduces the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Curcumin Inhibits Human Immunodeficiency Virus
Curcumin Inhibits Hepatitis Viruses
Curcumin Inhibits Influenza A Virus
Curcumin Inhibits Herpesviruses
Curcumin Inhibits Human Papillomavirus
Curcumin Inhibits Respiratory Syncytial Virus
Curcumin Inhibits Noroviruses
Curcumin Inhibits Arboviruses
More details of this can be found directly at US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6509173/
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