Antimicrobial action of carbon monoxide-releasing compounds

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120 Citations (Scopus)


Carbon monoxide (CO) is endogenously produced in the human body, mainly from the oxidation of heme catalyzed by heme oxygenase (HO) enzymes. The induction of HO and the consequent increase in CO production play important physiological roles in vasorelaxation and neurotransmission and in the immune system. The exogenous administration of CO gas and CO-releasing molecules (CO-RMs) has been shown to induce vascular effects and to alleviate hypoxia-reoxygenation injury of mammalian cells. In particular, due to its anti-inflammatory, antiapoptotic, and antiproliferative properties, CO inhibits ischemic-reperfusion injury and provides potent cytoprotective effects during organ and cell transplantation. In spite of these findings regarding the physiology and biology of mammals, nothing is known about the action of CO on bacteria. In the present work, we examined the effect of CO on bacterial cell proliferation. Cell growth experiments showed that CO caused the rapid death of the two pathogenic bacteria tested, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, particularly when delivered through organometallic CO-RMs. Of importance is the observation that the effectiveness of the CO-RMs was greater in near-anaerobic environments, as many pathogens are anaerobic organisms and pathogen colonization occurs in environments with low oxygen concentrations. Our results constitute the first evidence that CO can be utilized as an antimicrobial agent. We anticipate our results to be the starting point for the development of novel types of therapeutic drugs designed to combat antibiotic-resistant pathogens, which are widespread and presently a major public health concern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4303-4307
Number of pages5
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


  • dichloro rutheniumun
  • classified drug
  • antiinfective agent
  • carbon monoxide
  • tricarbonylchloroglycinate ruthenium
  • tricarbonyl


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