In this study, the capsaicin content of chile pepper extracts from 29 unexplored varieties of Capsicum (twenty five varieties of Capsicum chinense and five of Capsicum annuum) was quantified and correlated with the antimicrobial potential against bacterial and fungal pathogens. The capsaicin content and bactericidal activity against numerous human pathogens (Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida albicans) was compared to identify the most effective chile pepper varieties in the treatment of bacterial and fungal pathogens. The capsaicin content of the tested varieties varied from 29 to 42,633 ppm (139 - 682,135 SHU). On average, the fruits of C. chinense cultivars contained much higher concentrations of capsaicin than C. annuum cultivars. The undiluted chile peppers extracts with capsaicin concentrations greater than 25,000 SHU demonstrated bactericidal and antifungal effects. Overall, it was determined that L. monocytogenes and S. aureus were more susceptible to the antimicrobial effects of capsaicin than Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7, while C. albicans was markedly more susceptible than all bacterial species examined. The extract of the sixth most pungent cultivar, C. chinense Bhut Jolokia Red, showed the greatest antimicrobial potency of all screened peppers. The antimicrobial activity of pepper extracts was not directly correlated with increasing capsaicin concentrations, indicating that various Capsicum cultivars may possess distinct capsaicin derivatives. This is the first study which showed the relationship between capsaicin contents in different Capsicum varieties and their antimicrobial potential, and opens avenues in the study of capsaicin derivatives and their role in health and medicines.
Key words: Capsicum, pathogen, capsaicin, peppers, antimicrobial, bactericidal.
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