In vitro antimicrobial activities of organic acids and their derivatives on several species of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria

Lauren Kovanda, Wen Zhang, Xiaohong Wei, Jia Luo, Xixi Wu, Edward Robert Atwill, Stefan Vaessen, Xunde Li, Yanhong Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to determine the in vitro antimicrobial activity of several organic acids and their derivatives against Gram-positive (G+) and Gram-negative (G−) bacteria. Butyric acid, valeric acid, monopropionin, monobutyrin, valerate glycerides, monolaurin, sodium formate, and ProPhorce—a mixture of sodium formate and formic acid (40:60 w/v)—were tested at 8 to 16 concentrations from 10 to 50,000 mg/L. The tested bacteria included G− bacteria (Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica Typhimurium, and Campylobacter jejuni) and G+ bacteria (Enterococcus faecalis, Clostridium perfringens, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Streptococcus suis). Antimicrobial activity was expressed as minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of tested compounds that prevented growth of tested bacteria in treated culture broth. The MICs of butyric acid, valeric acid, and ProPhorce varied among bacterial strains with the lowest MIC of 500–1000 mg/L on two strains of Campylobacter. Sodium formate at highest tested concentrations (20,000 mg/L) did not inhibit the growth of Escherichia coli, Salmonella Typhimurium, and Enterococcus faecalis, but sodium formate inhibited the growth of other tested bacteria with MIC values from 2000 to 18,800 mg/L. The MIC values of valerate glycerides, monolaurin, and monobutyrin ranged from 2500 to 15,000 mg/L in the majority of bacterial strains. Monopropionin did not inhibit the growth of all tested bacteria, with the exception that the MIC of monopropionin was 11,300 mg/L on Clostridia perfringens. Monolaurin strongly inhibited G+ bacteria, with the MIC value of 10 mg/L against Streptococcus pneumoniae. The MIC tests indicated that organic acids and their derivatives exhibit promising antimicrobial effects in vitro against G− and G+ bacteria that are resistant to antimicrobial drugs. The acid forms had stronger in vitro antimicrobial activities than ester forms, except that the medium chain fatty acid ester monolaurin exhibited strong inhibitory effects on G+ bacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3770
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 19 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Antimicrobial effects
  • Gram-negative bacteria
  • Gram-positive bacteria
  • Minimum inhibitory concentration
  • Organic acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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