Plant Products with Antimicrobial Properties (Edexcel International A Level Biology)

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Plant Products with Antimicrobial Properties

  • Plants are susceptible to attack by micro-organisms, such as bacteria and fungi
  • This can cause damage to the plant and may even kill them
  • Plants have developed a range of chemical defences against these microbes
    • These may include antiseptic compounds and antibiotics
  • Antimicrobial chemicals from plants can be exploited by humans to develop new drugs to treat bacterial and fungal diseases
  • It is possible to produce a plant extract containing these antimicrobial chemicals to test its effect on the growth of bacteria

Other therapeutic drugs sourced from plants

  • Plants may also produce a variety of other compounds that can treat a range of ailments in humans, from pain killers to cancer drugs
    • Scientists were able to extract the active ingredient from willow bark, used by people for pain relief over the centuries, which led to the development of modern-day aspirin
    • Quinine is a drug sourced from the cinchona tree, used to treat and prevent malaria
  • An advantage of extracting and purifying active plant compounds is the ability to produce medication that contains a known concentration of the active ingredient
    • This ensures a reliable dosage of medication
  • Analysing the chemical structure of the active ingredients enables scientists to create synthetic versions of the compound in a laboratory
    • This reduces the need to remove large amounts of plant material from the environment 
    • Modifications can be made in the laboratory to make the active ingredient more effective
  • The development of therapeutic drugs from plant products has enabled humans to be more successful at treating diseases

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Author: Marlene

Marlene graduated from Stellenbosch University, South Africa, in 2002 with a degree in Biodiversity and Ecology. After completing a PGCE (Postgraduate certificate in education) in 2003 she taught high school Biology for over 10 years at various schools across South Africa before returning to Stellenbosch University in 2014 to obtain an Honours degree in Biological Sciences. With over 16 years of teaching experience, of which the past 3 years were spent teaching IGCSE and A level Biology, Marlene is passionate about Biology and making it more approachable to her students.

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