Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 103, Issue 1, pp 97–112 | Cite as

Cationic surfactants as antifungal agents

  • M. Elisa FaitEmail author
  • Laura Bakas
  • Graciela L. Garrote
  • Susana R. MorcelleEmail author
  • Mario C. N. SaparratEmail author


Fungi—in being responsible for causing diseases in animals and humans as well as environmental contaminations in health and storage facilities—represent a serious concern to health security. Surfactants are a group of chemical compounds used in a broad spectrum of applications. The recently considered potential employment of cationic surfactants as antifungal or fungistatic agents has become a prominent issue in the development of antifungal strategies, especially if such surface-active agents can be synthesized in an eco-friendly manner. In this review, we describe the antifungal effect and the reported mechanisms of action of several types of cationic surfactants and also include a discussion of the contribution of these surfactants to the inhibition of yeast-based-biofilm formation. Furthermore, the putative mechanism of arginine-based tensioactive compounds as antifungal agents and their applications are also analyzed.


Cationic surfactants Antifungal activity Human pathogens Antifungal mechanism 



MEF was awarded a CONICET fellowship. SRM, MCNS, and GLG are members of CONICET. LB is member of the CICPBA as a career investigator. Dr. Donald F. Haggerty, a retired academic career investigator and native English speaker, edited the final version of the manuscript.

Funding information

This study was funded by MINCyT (PICT 2013-2531 and PICT 2015-1620), CAPES-MINCyT (017/2014), and UNLP (X11-682).

Compliance with ethical standards

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Investigación de Proteínas Vegetales (CIPROVE-UNLP-Centro Asociado CICPBA), Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Facultad de Ciencias ExactasCentro Asociado CIC PBA, UNLPLa PlataArgentina
  2. 2.Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)Buenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo en Criotecnología de Alimentos (CIDCA-CONICET-UNLP)La PlataArgentina
  4. 4.Instituto de Fisiología Vegetal (INFIVE-CONICET-UNLP) and Instituto de Botánica Carlos Spegazzini, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, UNLPLa PlataArgentina
  5. 5.Cátedra de Microbiología Agrícola, Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias y Forestales, UNLPLa PlataArgentina

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