Curcumin, bis(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-1,6-heptadiene-3,5-dione, is a yellow-orange pigment which can be synthesised chemically or isolated from the plant Curcuma longa L. Curcumin has a rather broad absorption peak in the range 300-500 nm (maximum approximately 430 nm) and has potential as a photosensitiser for treatment of localised superficial infections in e.g., the mouth or skin. Previously, we have demonstrated phototoxic effects of curcumin in selected aqueous preparations against both gram-positive Enterococcus faecalis and Streptococcus intermedius and gram-negative Escherichia coil bacteria in vitro. One of the most efficient preparations was curcumin in polyethylene glycol (PEG 400) dissolved in phosphate buffered saline (PBS), pH 6.1. In this study the solubilising effect of PEG 400 on curcumin molecules and the in vitro phototoxic effects of these preparations were further evaluated. The effect of varying the curcumin concentration (2.50 microM -25.00 microM), the radiant exposure (0.5-30 J/cm2) and the physical state of curcumin against the survival of E. coli was investigated. PEG 400 showed an increasing physically stabilising effect towards crystallisation of curcumin in aqueous preparation with increasing concentrations (2.5%-10.0% v/v). Despite a higher solubility of curcumin with increasing PEG 400 concentrations, the surfactant reduced the phototoxicity of curcumin against E. coil. The highest phototoxic effect was obtained when curcumin was present in the least physically stable preparation, a stock solution in ethanol added to PBS with or without the lowest test concentration of PEG 400 (2.5% v/v). The obtained phototoxic effect can be increased by increasing the irradiation dose or by choosing an optimal curcumin concentration. E. faecalis was efficiently killed by the lowest concentration of curcumin in combination with the lowest radiant exposure when curcumin was dissolved in certain PEG solutions (< 0.02% survival), but showed no reduction when exposed to preirradiated curcumin.


Photokilling of bacteria by curcumin in selected polyethylene glycol 400 (PEG 400) preparations Studies on curcumin and curcuminoids, XLI
Haukvik T, Bruzell E,  Kristensen S, Tønnesen HH.
Pharmazie 2010; 65: 600-606.