July 18, 2024
Copaiba Oil

Research Demonstrates Powerful Antimicrobial Properties of Polyalthic Acid Extracted from Copaiba Oil

A recent study conducted by researchers from Brazil and the United States has highlighted the antimicrobial potential of polyalthic acid, a compound found in copaiba oil. The findings of the study, published in the journal Antibiotics, suggest that polyalthic acid could be used to develop alternative medications to combat antibiotic resistance.

The report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2019 stated that more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the US annually, resulting in over 35,000 deaths. Antimicrobial resistance, where bacteria and fungi develop the ability to resist the drugs designed to kill them, is projected to become the leading global cause of death by 2050.

The rise of antimicrobial resistance is largely attributed to improper prescribing practices, extensive agricultural use of antibiotics, and the lack of investment in developing new antibiotics due to their high cost and low returns. Given this crisis, the search for alternative sources of novel drugs, such as plants, has gained traction in the scientific community.

In light of this, researchers from the University of São Paulo’s Ribeirão Preto School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the São Carlos Institute of Physics, the University of Franca in Brazil, and the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Western New England University in the US turned their attention to copaiba oil. Copaiba oil is derived from Copaifera trees and has traditionally been used in the Amazon region for its wound-healing, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. It contains diterpenes (20%), including polyalthic acid, and sesquiterpenes (80%), both of which have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

The researchers synthesized four analogs of polyalthic acid with structural modifications to enhance their efficacy against pathogens. They tested their effectiveness against biofilms of Staphylococcus epidermidis, a bacterium responsible for skin and digestive tract infections, as well as several Gram-positive bacteria. In addition, they determined the minimum dosage required to inhibit free-floating bacteria.

The results of the activity tests and comparisons with the original polyalthic acid and commonly prescribed drugs were promising. The analogs developed by the researchers successfully eradicated S. epidermidis and exhibited activity against all tested Gram-positive bacteria. While they were less potent than the prescribed drugs, these findings underscored the importance of further in vitro and in vivo testing.

An advantage of studying polyalthic acid is its known ability to retain its antimicrobial activity, ensuring that bacteria do not develop resistance even with prolonged use, explained Cássia Suemi Mizuno, a researcher at Western New England University and the last author of the study.

Furthermore, the researchers confirmed the safety of the analogs through an analysis of hemolytic activity, which measures their capacity to destroy red blood cells.

Mizuno emphasized that this research is a significant contribution to tackling antimicrobial resistance and provides a foundation for future studies by other investigators. The next steps in their research include producing more derivatives by exploring different regions of the polyalthic acid molecule and seeking collaborations with pharmaceutical companies in order to conduct further research.

Investment in extracting copaiba oil in the Amazon region will be necessary, along with the involvement of local communities who possess knowledge of the native vegetation and can identify species with higher levels of polyalthic acid, such as Copaifera reticulata Ducke.

Mizuno also clarified that this research does not involve the destruction of trees. She likened the extraction of copaiba oil to rubber tapping, wherein a groove is made in the bark of the tree trunk in order to facilitate oil collection.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it