(Excerpts from Dr. Jon Kabara)
The antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal properties of lauric acid and monolaurin have been recognized for nearly three decades by a small number of researchers. Their work, however, has resulted in 50 or more research papers an numerous U.S. and foreign patents.
Some of the viruses inactivated by these lipids are the:
Prof. Dr. Jon J. Kabara performed the original seminal research in this area of fat research. Kabara (1968) first patented certain fatty acids (FAs) and their derivatives (e.g., monoglycerides (MGs) can have adverse effects on various microorganisms. While nontoxic and approved as a direct food additive by the FDA, monolaurin adversely affects bacteria, yeast, fungi, and enveloped viruses.
Kabara found that the properties that determine the anti-infective action of lipids are related to their structure: e.g., free fatty acids & monoglycerides. The monoglycerides are active; diglycerides and triglycerides are inactive. Of the saturated fatty acids, lauric acid has greater antiviral activity than either caprylic acid (C-8), capric acid (C-10), or myristic acid (C-14).
Fatty acids and monoglycerides produce their killing/inactivating effects by several mechanisms. An early postulated mechanism was the perturbing of the plasma membrane lipid bilayer. The antiviral action attributed to monolaurin is that of fluidizing the lipids and phospholipids in the envelope of the virus, causing the disintegration of the microbial membrane.
More recent studies indicate that one antimicrobial effect in bacteria is related to monolaurin’s interference with signal transduction/toxin formation (Projan et al 1994). Another antimicrobial effect in viruses is due to lauric acid’s interference with virus assembly and viral maturation (Hornung et al 1994). The third mode of action may be on the immune system itself (Witcher et al, 1993).
Hierholzer and Kabara (1982) first reported the antiviral activity of the monoglyceride of lauric acid (monolaurin) on viruses that affect humans. They showed virucidal effects of monolaurin on enveloped RNA and DNA viruses.
This work was done at the Center for Disease Control of the U.S. Public Health Service. This study was carried out using selected virus prototypes or recognized representative strains of enveloped human viruses. All these viruses have a lipid membrane. The presence of a lipid membrane on viruses makes them especially vulnerable to lauric acid and its derivative monolaurin. These initial findings have been confirmed by many other studies.
Research has shown that enveloped viruses are inactivated by added fatty acids and monoglycerides in both human and bovine milk (Isaacs et al 199 1). Others (Isaacs et al 1986, 1990, 1991, 1992; Thormar et al 1987) have confirmed Kabara’s original statements concerning the effectiveness of monolaurin.
Thus, it would appear imperative to investigate the practical aspects and the potential benefit of a nutritional supplement such as monolaurin for microbial infected individuals. Until now few nutritionists in mainstream nutrition community seem to have recognized the added benefit of antimicrobial lipids in the support of infected patients. These antimicrobial fatty acids and their derivatives are essentially nontoxic to man. According to the published research, lauric acid is one of the best “inactivating” fatty acids, and its monoglyceride is even more effective than the fatty acid alone (Kabara 1978, Sands et al 1978, Fletcher et al 1985, Kabara 1985).
It should be emphasized that lauric acid cannot be taken orally because it is severally irritating. Monolaurin, a derivative of lauric acid chemically bonded to glycerol, can be taken orally without any problem. The lipid-coated (envelope) viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms are dependent on host lipids for their lipid constituents. The variability of fatty acids in the foods of individuals as well as the variability from de novo synthesis accounts for the variability of fatty acids in their membranes.
Monolaurin does not appear to have an adverse effect on desirable gut bacteria, but rather on only potentially pathogenic microorganisms. For example, Isaacs et al (1991) reported no inactivation of the common Esherichiacoli or Salmonella enteritidis by monolaurin, but major inactivation of Hemophilus influenza, Staphylococcus epidermis and Group B gram positive streptococcus.
The potentially pathogenic bacteria inactivated by monolaurin include Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus agalactiae, Groups A, streptococci-gram-positive organisms, and some gram-negative organisms (Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Helicobacter pylori).
Decreased growth of Staphylococcus aureus and decreased production of toxic shock syndrome toxin-l was shown with monolaurin (Holland et al 1994). Monolaurin was 5000 times more inhibitory against Listeria monocytogenes than ethanol (Oh & Marshall 1993). In vitro monolaurin rapidly inactivate Helicobacter pylori. Of greater significance there appears to be very little development of resistance of the organism to the bactericidal effects (Petschow et al 1996) of these natural antimicrobials.
A number of fungi, yeast, and protozoa are also inactivated or killed by monolaurin. The fungi include several species of ringworm (Isaacs et al 1991). The yeast reported to be affected is Candida albicans (Isaacs et al 1991) The protozoan parasite Giardia lamblia is killed by monoglycerides from hydrolyzed human milk (Hemell et al 1986, Reiner et al 1986, Crouch et al 1991, Isaacs et al 1991).
Chlamydia trachomatis is inactivated by monolaurin (Bergsson et al 1998). Hydrogels containing monocaprin/monolaurin are potent in vitro inactivators of sexually transmitted viruses such as HSV-2 and HIV-1 and bacteria such as Neisserian gonorrhea (Thormar 1999).
Selected references from Dr. Jon J Kabara’s:
Kabara. J.J, Swieczkowski, D M. Conley. A J and Truant, J P Fatty Acids and Derivatives as Antimicrobial Agents Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 2(l):23-28 (1972) Kabara. J.J.. Conley. A J.- Swieczkowski. D M.
Ismail, I.A . Lie Ken Jie and Gunstone, F D Antimicrobial Action of Isomeric Fatty Acids on Group A Streptococcus J. Med Chem 16:1060-1063 (1973).
Conley. A J and Kabara. J.J. Antimicrobial Action of Esters of Polyhydric Alcohols. Antimicrob. Ag and Chemother 4:501-506 (1973)
Kabara, J J and Conley. A J A Non-Caloric Role for MCT and Other Lipids In: Mittelkettige Trigiyceride (MCT) in der Diat. Zur Zeitschrih Fur Ernahrungswissenschah Supplenta No 17. H. Kaunitz K Lang and W Fekl, eds pp 17-26 (1974)
Kabara. J.J. Lipids as Safe and Effective Antimicrobial Agents for Cosmetics and Pharmaceuticals. Cosmetics and Perfumery 90:21-25 (1975).
Kabara, J.J. Monolaurin as an Antimicrobial Agent. U.S. Patent Number 4,002,775. Med-Chem Laboratories, January 1977.
Kabara. J.J., Vrable, R. and Lie Ken Jie, M.S.F Antimicrobial Lipids: Natural and Synthetic Fatty Acids and Monoglycerides. Lipids 12:753759 (1977).
Kabara, J.J. Synergistic Microbiocidal Composition and Method. U.S. Patent Number 4,067,997. January 10, 1978
Kabara, JJ Fatty Acids and Derivatives as Antimicrobial Agents-A Review. In: The Pharmacological Effect of Lipids. Jon J.
Kabara, ed Champaign, Illinois: The American Oil Chemists’ Society (1979),pp. 1-14
Li, C.Y. and Kabara. J.J. Effects of Lauricidin-on Fornes Annosus and Phellinus Weirii. In The Pharmacological Effect of Lipids. Jon J. Kabara, ed. Chamaign, Illionis: The American Oil Chemists’ Society (1979). pp. 45-50.
Kabara, J.J. Toxicological, Bactericidal and Fungicidal Properties of Fatty Acids and Some Derivatives JAOCS 56:760-767
Kabara, J.J., editor The Pharmacological Effect of Lipids I . American Oil Chemists’ Society: Champaign, Illinois (1979).
Kabara. J.J. Lipids as Host Resistance Factors of Human Milk Nutrition Reviews 38:65-73 (1980).
Kabara, J.J. Antimicrobial Compositions. U.S. Patent Number 4,189,481 February 19 1980.
Chipley. J R . Story. L.D.. Todd, P,T. and Kabara, J.J. Inhibition of Aspergillus Growth and Extracellular Aflatoxin Accumulation by Sorbic Acid and Derivatives of Fatty acids. J. Food Safety 3:109-119 (1981).
Kabara, J.J. Medium-Chain Fatty Acids and Esters as Antimicrobial Agents. In: Cosmetic and Drug Presentation: Principles and Practice, Jon J.
Kabara, ed., New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., pp. 275-304 (1984). Hierholzer, J.C. and Kabara, J.J. In Vitro Effects of Monolaurin Compounds on Enveloped RNA and DNA Viruses. J. Of Food Safety 4:1-12 (1982).
Kabara. J.J. Antimicrobial Agents Derived From Fatty Acids. J. American Oil Chemists’ Society 61:397- 403 (1984).
Fletcher, R.D., Albers, A.C., Albertson, J.N. Jr. and Kabara, J.J. Effect of Monoglycerides on Mycoplasma pneumoniae Growth. In: The Pharmacological Effect of Lipids 11, Jon J. Kabara, ed. American Oil Chemists’ Society: Champaign, Illinois, pp. 59-63 (1985).
Chipley, J.R., Todd, P.T., Atchley, F. and Kabara, J.J. Effects of Fatty Acid Derivatives on the Release of Extracelluiar Enzymes from Bacteria. In: The Pharmacological Effect of Lipids 11, Jon J. Kabara, ed. American Oil Chemists’ Society: Champaign, Illinois, pp. 97-102 (1985).
Kabara, J.J. Ohkawa, M., Ikekawa, T., Katori, T. and Nishikawa, Y. Examinations on Antitumor Immunological, and Plant-Growth Inhibitory Effects of Monoglycerides of Caprylic, Capric, and Lauric Acids and Related Compounds. In: The Pharmacological Effect of Lipids 11, Jon J.
Kabara, ed. American Oil Chemists’ Society: Champaign, Illinois, pp. 263-272 (1985). Kabara, J.J., Editor. The Pharmacological Effects of Lipids II, American Oil Chemists’ Society: Champaign, Illinois (1985). Flournoy,
D.J. and Kabara, J.J. The Role of LauricidinÆ as an Antimicrobial Agent. In: Drugs of Today 21(8):373-377 (1985).
Kabara, J.J., Editor. The Pharmacological Effects of Lipids III, American Oil Chemists’ Society: Champaign, Illinois (1989).
Confirmatory references by other investigators:
Kabara, Jon J, Pharmacological effects of coconut oil vs. monoglycerides Inform June 2005 pp386 Bergsson G, Amfinnsson J, Karlsson SN’rSteingrinisson 0, Thormar H. In vitro inactivation of Chlamydia trachomatis by fatty acids and monoglycerides. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 1998;42:2290-2294
Crouch AA, Seow WK, Whitman LM, Thong YH. Effect of human milk and infant milk formulae on adherence of Giardia intestinalis.; Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 1991;85:617-619.
Dodge JA and Sagher FA. Antiviral and antibacterial lipids in human milk and infant formula. Archives of Disease in Childhood 1991;66:272- 273.
Enig, MG. Lauric oils as antimicrobial agents: theory of effect, scientific rationale, and dietary applications as adjunct nutritional support for HIV-infected individuals. in Nutrients and Foods in AIDS (RR Watson, ed) CRC Press, Boca Raton, 1998, pp. 81-97.
Epstein SE, Speir E, Zhou YF, Guetta E, Leon M, Finkel T. The role of infection in restenosis and atherosclerosis: focus on cytomegalovirus. Lancet 19%;348 Supplement 1:513-17.
Holland KT, Taylor D, Farrell AM. The effect of glycerol monolaurate on growth of, and production of toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 and lipase by, Staphylococcus aureus. Journal of Anti-microbial Chemotherapy 1994;33:41-55. Homung B, Arntmann E, Sauer G. Lauric acid inhibits the maturation of vesicular storriatitis virus. Journal of General Virology 1994;75:353- 361.
Isaacs CE, Thormar H. Membrane-disruptive effect of human milk: inactivation of enveloped viruses. Journal of Infectious Diseases 1986; 154:966-971.
Isaacs CE, Schneidman K. Enveloped Viruses in Human and Bovine Milk are Inactivated by Added Fatty Acids (FAs) and Monoglycerides (MGs). FASEB Journal 1991;5: Abstract 5325, p. A1288.
Wang LL and Johnson EA. Inhibition of Listeria monocytogenes by fatty acids and monoglycerides. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 1992;58:624-629.
Witcher KJ, Novick RP, Schlievert PM. Modulation of immune cell proliferation by glycerol monolaurate. Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology 1996;3:10-13.