Sub-lethal activity of small molecules from natural sources and their synthetic derivatives against biofilm forming Nosocomial pathogens

Federica Villa, Stefania Villa, Arianna Gelain, Francesca Cappitelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Nowadays, the patient safety is seriously jeopardized by the emergence and spread of nosocomial pathogens in the form of biofilm that is resistant to traditional and affordable antimicrobials. Although advances in organic synthesis have extended the lifetime of classic antibiotics through synthetic modifications, the search of innovative antibiofilm compounds from natural sources can provide new templates, novel targets and unique mechanisms that should have advantages over known antimicrobial agents. Testing sub-lethal concentrations of crude extracts and/or isolated compounds from plants and microorganisms is critical to acting on mechanisms subtler than the killing activity, e.g. those influencing the multicellular behavior, offering an elegant way to develop novel antimicrobial-free antibiofilm strategies. Herein we discussed the search and biological activity of small molecules from natural sources and their synthetic derivatives able to modulate biofilm genesis of nosocomial pathogens through non-microbicidal mechanisms (sub-lethal concentrations). The present work offers an overview about the approaches applied to the discovery of lead small molecules including a) conventional drug design methods like screening of chemical compounds obtained from nature and b) computer-aided drug design approaches. Finally, a classification (not exhaustive but representative) based on the natural origin of small molecules and their synthetic derivatives was reported. The information presented in this review should be of interest to a broad range of disciplines and represents an effort to summarize experimental research and advances in this field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3184-3204
Number of pages21
JournalCurrent Topics in Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2013



  • Biofilm-based infections
  • Computer-aided drug design
  • Natural compounds
  • Sub-lethal concentrations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery

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