Natural products for infectious microbes and diseases: an overview of sources, compounds, and chemical diversities

Lu Luo, Jun Yang, Cheng Wang, Jie Wu, Yafang Li, Xu Zhang, Hui Li, Hui Zhang, Yumei Zhou, Aiping Lu, Shilin Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) threatens human health globally, infectious disorders have become one of the most challenging problem for the medical community. Natural products (NP) have been a prolific source of antimicrobial agents with widely divergent structures and a range vast biological activities. A dataset comprising 618 articles, including 646 NP-based compounds from 672 species of natural sources with biological activities against 21 infectious pathogens from five categories, was assembled through manual selection of published articles. These data were used to identify 268 NP-based compounds classified into ten groups, which were used for network pharmacology analysis to capture the most promising lead-compounds such as agelasine D, dicumarol, dihydroartemisinin and pyridomycin. The distribution of maximum Tanimoto scores indicated that compounds which inhibited parasites exhibited low diversity, whereas the chemistries inhibiting bacteria, fungi, and viruses showed more structural diversity. A total of 331 species of medicinal plants with compounds exhibiting antimicrobial activities were selected to classify the family sources. The family Asteraceae possesses various compounds against C. neoformans, the family Anacardiaceae has compounds against Salmonella typhi, the family Cucurbitacea against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and the family Ancistrocladaceae against Plasmodium. This review summarizes currently available data on NP-based antimicrobials against refractory infections to provide information for further discovery of drugs and synthetic strategies for anti-infectious agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1123–1145
Number of pages23
JournalScience China Life Sciences
Issue number6
Early online date21 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • drug development
  • drug discovery
  • in silico analysis
  • infectious pathogen
  • natural product


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