Five Ochna species have high antibacterial activity and more than ten antibacterial compounds
New measures to control infections in humans and other animals are continuously being sought because of the increasing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. In a wide tree screening survey of the antimicrobial activity of extracts of tree leaves (www.up.ac.za/phyto), Ochna pulchra, a small tree found widely in southern Africa, had good antibacterial activity. We therefore investigated the antibacterial activity of acetone leaf extracts of some other available Ochna spp. Antibacterial activity and the number of antibacterial compounds in acetone leaf extracts of Ochna natalitia, Ochna pretoriensis, O. pulchra, Ochna gamostigmata and Ochna serullata were determined with a tetrazolium violet serial microplate dilution assay and bioautography against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Enterococcus faecalis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, bacteria commonly associated with nosocomial infections. The percentage yields of the extracts varied from 2.5% to 8%. The minimum inhibitory concentrations of the five species ranged from 40 µg/mL to 1250 µg/mL. E. coli was sensitive to all the extracts. The O. pretoriensis extract was the most active with minimum inhibitory concentrations of 0.065 mg/mL and 0.039 mg/mL against E. coli and E. faecalis, respectively. The O. pretoriensis extract also had the highest total activities of 923 mL/g and 1538 mL/g, indicating that the acetone extract from 1 g of dried plant material could be diluted to 923 mL or 1538 mL and would still kill these bacteria. Based on the bioautography results, the two most active species, O. pretoriensis and O. pulchra, contained at least 10 antibacterial compounds with similar Rf values. Some of these antibacterial compounds were polar and others were non-polar. Variation in the chemical composition of the species may have some taxonomic value. The order of activity of the species to the bacteria were O. pretoriensis > O. pulchra > O. gamostigmata > O. serullata > O. natalitia. Even before toxicity and bioavailability issues are considered, some Ochna spp. leaf extracts have the potential to be used in treating skin infections.