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  • Author: Ivan Kosalec x
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Contaminants of Medicinal Herbs and Herbal Products

Medicinal plants have a long history of use in therapy throughout the world and still make an important part of traditional medicine. Thus, medicinal plants and herbal products must be safe for the patient (consumer). This review addresses biological contaminants (microbes and other organisms) and chemical contaminants (mycotoxins, toxic elements such as heavy metals, and pesticide residues) as major common contaminants of medicinal herbs and herbal products. To prevent and screen for contamination and ensure safety and conformity to quality standards, medicinal herbs and herbal products should be included in appropriate regulatory framework.


This study investigates antioxidant capacity and protective effects of phenolic compounds oleuropein (OLP) and hydroxytyrosol (HT), present in olive oil and olive leaves, against H2O2-induced DNA damage in human peripheral lymphocytes. Antioxidant potency was determined using the measurement of radical-scavenging activity (ABTS∙+ assay), ferric reducing power (FRAP assay) and cupric reducing antioxidant capacity (CUPRAC assay). Both substances were found to be potent antioxidant agents due to their free radical-scavenging activities. Antigenotoxic effects of oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol against H2O2-induced damage in human lymphocytes were evaluated in vitro by alkaline comet assay. At tested concentrations (1, 5, 10 µmol L−1), oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol did not induce a significant increase of primary DNA damage in comparison with the negative control. Pretreatment of human lymphocytes with each of the substances for 120 min produced a dose-dependent reduction of primary DNA damage in the tested cell type. Hydroxytyrosol showed a better protective effect against H2O2-induced DNA breaks than oleuropein which could be associated with their free radical-scavenging efficacy.

Co-occurrence of Aflatoxins, Ochratoxin A, Fumonisins, and Zearalenone in Cereals and Feed, Determined by Competitive Direct Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay and Thin-Layer Chromatography

Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Fusarium species frequently contaminate crops. For this reason mycotoxins such as aflatoxins (AFs), ochratoxin A (OTA), fumonisins (FBs), and zearalenone (ZEA) are found in food and feed in a wide range of concentrations, depending on environmental and storage conditions. Consumption of mycotoxin-contaminated food and feed has been associated with acute and chronic poisoning and carcinoma. The aim of this study was to determine the incidence and co-occurrence of AFs (B1+B2+G1+G2), OTA, FBs (B1+B2+B3), and ZEA in 37 samples of cereals and feed randomly collected in 2007 from households of an endemic nephropathy (EN) area in Croatia. The mycotoxins were determined using the competitive direct ELISA test (CD-ELISA) in combination with thin-layer chromatography (TLC). The most frequent mycotoxin was ZEA (92%, mean 318.3 μg kg-1), followed by FBs (27%, 3690 μg kg-1), AFs (24.3%, 4.6 μg kg-1), and OTA (16.2%, 9.8 μg kg-1). Levels of AFs, ZEA, and FBs detected by CD-ELISA significantly correlated with the TLC results. However, only one OTA-positive sample was confirmed by TLC due to its high limit of detection. The levels of these mycotoxins were below the permissible limit for animal feed. Twenty-nine percent of cereals were contaminated with FBs, OTA, or ZEA in mass fractions above the permissible limit for humans. Co-occurrence of two toxins varied between 4.2% and 54% and of three between 4.2% and 7.6%. Prolonged co-exposure to AFs, OTA, FBs, and ZEA might increase the risk of various chronic diseases.

Assessment of Tryptophol Genotoxicity in Four Cell Lines In Vitro: A Pilot Study with Alkaline Comet Assay

Tryptophol is an aromatic alcohol and secondary metabolite of the opportunistic fungus Candida albicans. Although its toxicity profile at cell level has been poorly investigated, recent data point to cytotoxic, cytostatic, and genotoxic effects in lymphocytes and the induction of apoptosis in leukaemic blood monocytes. In this pilot study we evaluated the genotoxicity of tryptophol in vitro on four permanent cell lines of animal and human origin: ovary cells, alveolar epithelium, liver cells, and blood monocytes using the alkaline comet assay. We selected cells that might be principal targets of tryptophol and other low-molecular geno(toxins) secreted by Candida albicans during host invasion. Our results suggest that tryptophol applied in vitro at 2 mmol L-1 for 24 h damages DNA in HepG2, A549 and THP-1 cells, obviously due to bioactivation and/or decomposition of the parent compound, which results in the formation of more genotoxic compound(s) and production of reactive species that additionally damage DNA. On the other hand, notably lower levels of primary DNA damage were recorded in CHO cells, which lack metabolic activity. Future studies with tryptophol should look further into mechanisms involved in its toxic action and should focus on other cell types prone to infection with Candida spp. such as vaginal epithelial cells or keratinocytes of human origin.


Olive leaf extract is characterized by a high content of polyphenols (oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol and their derivatives), which is associated with its therapeutic properties. The objective of the present research was to evaluate the antifungal activity of olive leaf extract against Candida albicans ATCC 10231 and C. dubliniensis CBS 7987 strains. Minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) of the extract were determined by several in vitro assays. The extract showed a concentration depended effect on the viability of C. albicans with MIC value of 46.875 mg mL-1 and C. dubliniensis with MIC value 62.5 mg mL-1. Most sensitive methods for testing the antifungal effect of the extracts were the trypan blue exclusion method and fluorescent dye exclusion method while MIC could not be determined by the method according to the EUCAST recommendation suggesting that herbal preparations contain compounds that may interfere with this susceptibility testing. The fluorescent dye exclusion method was also used for the assessment of morphological changes in the nuclei of treated cells. According to the obtained results, olive leaf extract is less effective against the tested strains than hydroxytyrosol, an olive plant constituent tested in our previous study.


Aroylhydrazones 1–13 were screened for antimicrobial and antibiofilm activities in vitro. N′-(2-hydroxy-phenylmethylidene)-3-pyridinecarbohydrazide (2), N′-(5-chloro-2-hydroxyphenyl-methylidene)-3-pyridinecarbohydrazide (10), N′-(3,5-chloro-2-hydroxyphenylmethylidene)-3-pyridinecarbohydrazide (11), and N′-(2-hydroxy-5-nitrophenylmethylidene)-3-pyridinecarbohydrazide (12) showed antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli, with MIC values (in µmol mL−1) of 0.18–0.23, 0.11–0.20, 0.16–0.17 and 0.35–0.37, resp. Compounds 11 and 12, as well as N′-(2-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenylmethylidene)-3-pyridinecarbohydrazide (6) and N′-(2-hydroxy-5- methoxyphenylmethylidene)-3-pyridinecarbohydrazide (8) showed antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, with the lowest MIC values of 0.005–0.2, 0.05–0.12, 0.06–0.48 and 0.17–0.99 µmol mL−1. N′-(2-hydroxy-5-methoxyphenylmethylidene)-3-pyridinecarbohydrazide (7) showed antifungal activity against both fluconazole resistant and susceptible C. albicans strains with IC 90 range of 0.18–0.1 µmol mL−1. Only compound 11 showed activity against C. albicans ATCC 10231 comparable to the activity of nystatin (the lowest MIC 4.0 ×10−2 vs. 1.7 × 10−2 µmol mL−1). Good activity regarding multi-resistant clinical strains was observed for compound 12 against MRSA strain (MIC 0.02 µmol mL−1) and compounds 2, 6 and 12 against ESBL+ E. coli MFBF 12794, with the lowest MIC for compound 12 (IC 50 0.16 µmol mL−1). Anti-biofilm activity was found for compounds 2 (MBFIC 0.015–0.02 µmol mL−1 against MRSA) and 12 (MBFIC 0.013 µmol mL−1 against EBSL+ E. coli). In the case of compound 2 against MRSA biofilm formation, MBFIC values were comparable to those of gentamicin sulphate, whereas in the case of compound 12 and EBSL+ E. coli even more favourable activity compared to gentamicin was observed.


Green mould disease, caused by Trichoderma species, is a severe problem for mushroom growers worldwide, including Croatia. Trichoderma strains were isolated from green mould-affected Agaricus bisporus (button or common mushroom) compost and Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushroom) substrate samples collected from Croatian mushroom farms. The causal agents of green mould disease in the oyster mushroom were T. pleurotum and T. pleuroticola, similar to other countries. At the same time, the pathogen of A. bisporus was exclusively the species T. harzianum, which is different from earlier findings and indicates that the range of mushroom pathogens is widening. The temperature profiles of the isolates and their hosts overlapped, thus no range was found that would allow optimal growth of the mushrooms without mould contamination. Ferulic acid and certain phenolic compounds, such as thymol showed remarkable fungistatic effect on the Trichoderma isolates, but inhibited the host mushrooms as well. However, commercial fungicides prochloraz and carbendazim were effective agents for pest management. This is the first report on green mould disease of cultivated mushrooms in Croatia