A traditional Ugandan Ficus natalensis bark cloth exhibits antimicrobial activity against Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus

Jonathan A Butler, Anthony J Slate, David B Todd, Douglas Airton, Michelle Hardman, Niall A Hickey, Kirsten Scott, Prabhuraj D Venkatraman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


AIMS: Surgical site, soft tissue and wound infections are some of the most prominent causes of Healthcare associated infections (HCAIs). Developing novel antimicrobial textiles and wound dressings may help alleviate the risk of developing HCAIs. We aimed to determine the antimicrobial efficacy of natural Ugandan bark cloth derived exclusively from the Ficus natalensis tree.

METHODS AND RESULTS: Antimicrobial contact and disc diffusion assays, coupled with time-kill kinetic assays demonstrated that bark cloth inhibited the growth of a clinically relevant Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strain and acted as a bactericidal agent causing a seven-log reduction in bacterial viability. Scanning electron microscopy was used to reveal morphological changes in the bacterial cell ultrastructure when exposed to bark cloth, which supported a proposed mechanism of antimicrobial activity.

CONCLUSIONS: The observed antimicrobial properties, combined with the physical characteristics elicited by bark cloth, suggest this product is ideally suited for wound and other skin care applications.

SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: This is the first report where a whole bark cloth product made by traditional methods has been employed as an antimicrobial fabric against MRSA. Bark cloth is a highly sustainable and renewable product and this study presents a major advance in the search for natural fabrics which could be deployed for healthcare applications.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Early online date28 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Nov 2020

Cite this