Infectious diseases are caused by pathogenic microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses. Such
diseases mostly develop in tropical and sub-tropical climates and represent major health challenges. The pathogens of these
diseases are able to multiply in human hosts, warranting their continual survival. Treatment is becoming extremely
difficult, due to the absence of effective vaccines and the emergence of resistance by their causative pathogens to existing
drugs. Several currently available drugs employ oxidative stress, resulting from the generation of reactive oxygen nitrogen
species (RONS), as mechanism for exerting their pharmacological actions. RONS inhibit endogenous antioxidant enzymes,
which ultimately eradicate the microbiota.
Curcumin, a redox-active natural product, has for centuries been used in Asian traditional medicine for the treatment of
various diseases. It is known for possessing multiple biological and pharmacological activities. Curcumin has been
investigated extensively over the years for its anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antiparasitic, antiviral and antibacterial
activities, and no toxicity is associated with the compound. Despite its potency and safety profile, curcumin is still in clinical
trials for the treatment of diseases, such as tuberculosis, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), Chron’s disease,
colorectal cancer and multiple myeloma, among many others, as it is yet to be qualified as a therapeutic agent. This review
summarizes events over the last decade, especially, regarding the discovery of curcumin, an update of its synthesis, its
pathogen specific mechanisms of action, and the pharmacological effects of its derivatives as potential antibacterial,
antifungal, antiparasitic and antiviral agents for the treatment of various infectious diseases.