Oregano Essential Oil Fights Toxoplasma Infection and Promotes Cell Health

Jenn Hoskins
22nd May, 2024

Oregano Essential Oil Fights Toxoplasma Infection and Promotes Cell Health

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at the State University of Londrina, Brazil, found that oregano essential oil (OEO) is a promising alternative treatment for toxoplasmosis
  • OEO showed low toxicity to human placental cells but significantly reduced the viability of T. gondii parasites
  • OEO treatment decreased the intracellular proliferation of T. gondii by 84% and induced cellular stress and damage in the parasite
Toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by the intracellular protozoan Toxoplasma gondii, poses a significant global health threat. It can range from asymptomatic cases to severe, potentially fatal manifestations, especially in immunocompromised individuals and during congenital transmission. Current treatments for toxoplasmosis have limitations, which necessitates the exploration of new therapeutic compounds. Researchers at the State University of Londrina, Brazil, have investigated the potential of oregano essential oil (OEO) as an alternative treatment for toxoplasmosis[1]. The study aimed to assess the toxicity of OEO on BeWo cells (a human placental cell line) and T. gondii tachyzoites (the rapidly multiplying form of the parasite). The researchers evaluated the effectiveness of OEO in in vitro infection models and its direct action on free tachyzoites. They used the MTT and trypan blue methods to determine the cytotoxic concentration (CC50) and inhibitory concentration (IC50) of OEO, as well as the selectivity index (SI), which indicates the compound's preference for targeting the parasite over host cells. Oregano oil exhibited low cytotoxicity on BeWo cells, with a CC50 value of 114.8 µg/mL, meaning it required this concentration to kill half of the BeWo cells. In contrast, it significantly reduced parasite viability, with an IC50 value of 12.5 µg/mL, demonstrating a 9.18 times greater selectivity for parasites than BeWo cells. This selectivity is crucial as it indicates that OEO can effectively target the parasite without harming human cells. The study found that OEO treatment significantly decreased intracellular proliferation of T. gondii in infected cells by 84% after 24 hours at a concentration of 50 μg/mL. To understand the mechanisms behind this antiparasitic activity, the researchers conducted various assessments, including measuring reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels, mitochondrial membrane potential, and observing necrosis and apoptosis through electron microscopy. OEO treatment led to increased ROS levels and mitochondrial depolarization in T. gondii, both of which are indicators of cellular stress and damage. Additionally, the formation of lipid droplets was observed, which is linked to autophagy induction—a process where cells degrade and recycle their own components. The permeabilization of the plasma membrane suggested a necrotic process, which was confirmed by propidium iodide labeling, a technique used to detect dead cells. These findings align with previous research on the antiparasitic potential of nanoparticles. For example, a study evaluating gold, silver, and platinum nanoparticles demonstrated significant inhibition of T. gondii growth, with silver nanoparticles showing the highest efficacy[2]. This suggests that both nanoparticles and natural products like OEO can disrupt the parasite's cellular functions, leading to its death. Moreover, the study on the synergistic antileishmanial effect of OEO combined with silver nanoparticles against Leishmania amazonensis also supports the effectiveness of OEO in combating parasitic infections[3]. This earlier research demonstrated that the combination of OEO and silver nanoparticles induced morphological and ultrastructural changes in the parasite, leading to its death through mechanisms involving ROS production and mitochondrial depolarization. Similar pathways were observed in the current study on T. gondii. The research from the State University of Londrina highlights the potential of OEO as an alternative treatment for toxoplasmosis. By inducing cellular and metabolic changes in T. gondii while maintaining low toxicity to human cells, OEO offers a promising avenue for further exploration. Integrating these findings with the broader context of antiparasitic research, including the use of nanoparticles and natural products, underscores the importance of developing innovative treatments to address the limitations of current therapies.

MedicineBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) Essential oil of oregano (Origanum vulgare L.) reduces infection and proliferation of Toxoplasma gondii in BeWo cells with induction of autophagy and death of tachyzoites through a mechanism similar to necrosis.

Published 22nd May, 2024


Related Studies

2) Inorganic nanoparticles kill Toxoplasma gondii via changes in redox status and mitochondrial membrane potential.


3) Synergistic Antileishmanial Effect of Oregano Essential Oil and Silver Nanoparticles: Mechanisms of Action on Leishmania amazonensis.


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