Ajoene, a garlic-derived sulfur-containing compound that prevents platelet aggregation, exhibited broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity. Growth of gram-positive bacteria, such as Bacillus cereus, Bacillus subtilis, Mycobacterium smegmatis, and Streptomyces griseus, was inhibited at 5 micrograms of ajoene per ml. Staphylococcus aureus and Lactobacillus plantarum also were inhibited below 20 micrograms of ajoene per ml. For gram-negative bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Xanthomonas maltophilia, MICs were between 100 and 160 micrograms/ml. Ajoene also inhibited yeast growth at concentrations below 20 micrograms/ml. The microbicidal effect of ajoene on growing cells was observed at slightly higher concentrations than the corresponding MICs. B. cereus and Saccharomyces cerevisiae were killed at 30 micrograms of ajoene per ml after 24 h of cultivation when cultivation was started at 10(5) cells per ml. However, the minimal microbicidal concentrations for resting cells were at 10 to 100 times higher concentrations than the corresponding MICs. The disulfide bond in ajoene appears to be necessary for the antimicrobial activity of ajoene, since reduction by cysteine, which reacts with disulfide bonds, abolished its antimicrobial activity.