An overview of the antifungal properties of allicin and its breakdown products – the possibility of a safe and effective antifungal prophylactic


Stephen R. Davis, Senior Hospital Scientist, Mycology Unit, Women's and Children's Hospital, 72 King William Road, North Adelaide, SA 5006, Australia. Tel.: +61 8 81617365. Fax: +61 8 81617589.


Reports about the safe and successful intravenous (i.v.) use of garlic derivatives in China against invasive fungal infections have been made, but little has been done to seriously investigate the in vivo use of these derivatives in the West. Laboratories have demonstrated impressive in vitro MICs using allitridium, one of these derivatives, against a range of medically important fungi. In addition, it has been demonstrated that allitridium shows in vitro synergy with amphotericin B, one of the main i.v. antifungal agents. Some of the breakdown products of allicin, the main parent antifungal compound in garlic, have been investigated for their general antimicrobial, anticancer and anticholesterol properties, and it appears that there is a common mode of action that underlies these activities. It appears that these small molecules have the ability to cross cell membranes and combine with sulfur-containing molecular groups in amino acids and proteins, thus interfering with cell metabolism. It has been suggested that the reason human cells are not poisoned by allicin derivatives is that they contain glutathione, a sulfur-containing amino acid that combines with the allicin derivative, thus preventing cell damage. In addition to their biochemical mechanism, these derivatives appear to stimulate cellular immunity, an important ability lacking in conventional antifungal chemotherapy. These derivatives appear to be safe, cheap, wide-spectrum and immunostimulatory, as well as possibly synergistic with conventional antifungal therapy, making them ideal candidates for investigation into their use as prophylactic antifungal agents.