The role of reactive oxygen species in the biological activity of antimicrobial agents: An updated mini review

P. L. Lam, R. S.M. Wong, K. H. Lam, L. K. Hung, M. M. Wong, L. H. Yung, Y. W. Ho, W. Y. Wong, D. K.P. Hau, R. Gambari, C. H. Chui

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Antimicrobial resistance remains a serious problem that results in high mortality and increased healthcare costs globally. One of the major issues is that resistant pathogens decrease the efficacy of conventional antimicrobials. Accordingly, development of novel antimicrobial agents and therapeutic strategies is urgently needed to overcome the challenge of antimicrobial resistance. A potential strategy is to kill pathogenic microorganisms via the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are defined as a number of highly reactive molecules that comprise molecular oxygen (O2), superoxide anion (O2 •−), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and hydroxyl radicals (OH). ROS exhibit antimicrobial actions against a broad range of pathogens through the induction of oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between ROS and the ability of the antioxidant defence system to detoxify ROS. ROS-dependent oxidative stress can damage cellular macromolecules, including DNA, lipids and proteins. This article reviews the antimicrobial action of ROS, challenges to ROS hypothesis, work to solidify ROS-mediated antimicrobial lethality hypothesis, recent developments in antimicrobial agents using ROS as an antimicrobial strategy, safety concerns related to ROS, and future directions in ROS research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109023
JournalChemico-Biological Interactions
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Oxidative stress
  • Pathogenic microorganisms
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology

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