Plant-Based Nanoparticles Could Eventually Replace Some Antibiotics

A group of researchers recently published a paper in the journal Science of the Total Environment that reviewed the suitability of using plant-based nanoparticles to combat antibiotic resistance.

Plant-Based Nanoparticles Could Eventually Replace Some Antibiotics

Study: Safer plant-based nanoparticles for combating antibiotic resistance in bacteria: A comprehensive review on its potential applications, recent advances, and future perspective. Image Credit: NABODIN/


Antibiotic resistance is primarily caused due to the excessive use of antibiotics in livestock and humans, and it represents one of the biggest threats to human health. Currently, expensive and partially effective drugs are used to treat antibiotic resistance. Thus, new alternatives, such as nanoparticles, are being developed that can effectively treat antibiotic resistance.

Nanoparticles can be used to treat severe, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections indirectly or directly by overcoming antibiotic resistance.

However, nanoparticles also exhibit toxicity toward human health owing to the involvement of toxic chemicals such as potassium/sodium borohydride in their production, which poses a significant risk for eukaryotic cells.

To resolve this, reliable, eco-friendly, and non-toxic methods such as green synthesis must be adopted to produce nanoparticles to expand their application.

The green synthesis of metallic nanoparticles is an eco-friendly, one-step, and inexpensive method that can become the primary method to produce nanoparticles in the future, specifically due to the rising focus on plant-based nanomaterials.

These are primarily derived from the extracts of multiple plant tissues and organs can be used as a suitable alternative as they are less toxic and effective against antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

In this review, the scope of using plant-based nanoparticles as an alternative to traditional antibiotics in treating multi drug-resistant bacterial infections was reviewed.

Recent Advances of Plant-based Nanoparticles

Extracts from different plant species were successfully applied in the biosynthesis of several nanoparticles, including the metallic nanoparticles that exhibit antibacterial activity.

For instance, silver nanoparticles synthesized from Dioscorea bulbifera tuber extract display both antifungal and antibacterial activity. Specifically, the nanoparticles demonstrated robust antibacterial activity against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and superficial mycoses such as Malassezia furfur and Candida albicans.

Silver nanoparticles synthesized from the aqueous extract of roots, callus, and leaves of Catharanthus roseus were highly effective against Candida albicans, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus.

Similarly, silver nanoparticles produced from aqueous leaf extracts of Senna siamea, Crossopteryx febrifuga, and Brillantaisia owariensis demonstrated significant microbial activity against three bacterial pathogens present in human skin, indicating that nanoparticles coated with biomolecules can enhance the biological activity of metallic nanoparticles.

Although silver nanoparticles can increase antibiotic resistance, the biosynthesized nanoparticles can be made effective when they are used with different antimicrobials.

For instance, the efficacy of macrolides (erythromycin) and beta-lactam antibiotics (piperacillin) against Acinetobacter baumannii can be increased significantly when they are selectively combined with silver nanoparticles synthesized from Dioscorea bulbifera tuber extract.

In addition to silver nanoparticles, several other metallic nanoparticles such as nickel nanoparticles synthesized from Ocimum tenuiflorum leaf extract, titanium dioxide from Cardamom or Withania somnifera, and selenium nanoparticles produced from aqueous extract of Urtica dioica also exhibit antimicrobial properties.

Furthermore, gold nanoparticles synthesized from different plant species such as Azolla microphylla were considered the most biocompatible, eco-friendly, and potent nanoparticles for antimicrobial applications.

Iron nanoparticles also demonstrated significant antimicrobial properties. For instance, iron nanoparticles synthesized from an aqueous extract of Sageretia thea were highly effective against Klebsiella pneumoniae and Eschecheria coli.

Thus, the development of eco-friendly methods for the synthesis of nanoparticles using plant extracts marks a significant step in nanotechnology applications.

Potential Applications of Plant-based Nanoparticles

The applications of nanoparticles to treat human diseases are limited due to their toxicity on human health. Gold and silver nanoparticles were found to be the least toxic on human cells, which can facilitate their potential application in antibacterial therapy.

However, the possibility of using silver nanoparticles synthesized from non-green methods for therapeutic applications is low owing to the toxic effects of these nanoparticles on human health, which can cause malformations and reproductive disorders. 

However, biosynthesized silver and gold nanoparticles can be effectively applied in therapeutic applications, such as promoting tissue regeneration, treating bacterial infections, and reducing inflammation.

Similarly, zinc oxide nanoparticles produced from Amaranthus caudatus leaf extract demonstrated exceptional antimicrobial activity against Enterobacter aerogenes and Staphylococcus epidermidis.

Thus, nanoparticles synthesized from plants that are less toxic for human health and display high antimicrobial activity can be used to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in the future.

Additionally, plant-based nanoparticles also have multiple applications and advantages in the fields of the pharmaceutical industry and medicine.

Future of Plant-based Nanoparticles

Considering the potential applications of plant-based nanoparticles, future studies must focus on eliminating the adverse impact of their synthesis on the environment and evaluating the safety of the environment and human health while using plant-based nanoparticles.

Additionally, detailed development of nanoparticle synthesis procedures and studying the mechanisms responsible for the antibacterial effect exhibited by nanoparticles are also necessary to turn the use of plant-based nanoparticles into a practical approach that can act as an effective solution against antibiotic-resistant infections.


U. Anand, M. Carpena, M. Kowalska-Góralska, et al. (2022) Safer plant-based nanoparticles for combating antibiotic resistance in bacteria: A comprehensive review on its potential applications, recent advances, and future perspective. Science of the Total Environment. Available at:

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