Background: In both the developed and developing world, the mortality rates of people
afflicted with cryptococcosis are unacceptably high despite the availability of antifungal therapy.
The disease is caused by Cryptococcus neoformans (predominantly in immunocompromised individuals)
and by Cryptococcus gattii. Globally the disease is estimated to cause around 600,000
deaths annually. Antifungal therapy is available, but in the developing world, may be unaffordable
to many people, there is an increasing threat of resistance to the available drugs and our repertoire of
antifungal drugs is very limited. Consequently, more research has been focusing on the use of medicinal
plants as therapeutic agents. The originality of the current study is that although Tulbaghia
violacea is a well-documented medicinal plant, the chemical composition of aqueous extracts and
their antifungal potential against pathogenic yeasts are unknown. This is the first study that evaluates
the chemical constituents of aqueous T. violacea root, leaf, rhizome and tuber extracts and their corresponding
antifungal activities against C. neoformans and C. gattii.
Objectives: The study aimed to investigate the phytochemical composition and antifungal potential
of Tulbaghia violacea root, leaf, rhizome and tuber extracts against Cryptococcus neoformans and
Methods: Roots, leaves, rhizomes and tubers were extracted with water only for 48 h at room temperature
with continuous shaking. Extracts were filter sterilized, freeze-dried and, chemically analyzed
for saponin, flavonol, phenolic and tannin content. Chemical constituents of each extract were
also identified by GC-MS analysis. The Minimum Inhibitory Concentration (MIC) of suitably diluted
extracts of each plant part were also performed against C. neoformans and C. gattii, yeast
pathogens commonly associated with HIV/AIDS sufferers.
Results: Phytochemical analysis showed different concentrations of saponins (between 1023 and
2896.73 µg/ml), phenolics (between 16.48 and 51.58 µg/ml) and tannins (between 122.30 and
543.07 µg/ml) present in the different extracts. No flavonols were detected. GC-MS analysis identified
a complex mixture of phytochemicals composed predominantly of sulphide, pyran, furan and
ketone containing compounds to be present in the different plant parts. All extracts were dominated
by the presence of 4 H-pyran-4-one, 2,3-dihydro-3,5-dihydroxy-6-methyl, a pyran known to have
antifungal properties. Although the root, leaf, rhizome and tuber extracts exhibited antifungal activities
against both fungi, the rhizome and tuber extract were found to possess the lowest MIC’s of 1.25
mg/ml and 2.5 mg/ml against Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii respectively.
Conclusion: T. violacea extracts have a complex constituent of phytochemicals and each plant part
exhibited a strong antifungal activity against C. neoformans and C. gattii. The rhizome and tuber extracts
showed the highest antifungal activity against C. neoformans and C. gattii respectively. Thus,
T. violacea aqueous extracts are strong candidates for further development into an antifungal chemotherapeutic