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Salicylic Acids and Pathogenic Bacteria: New Perspectives on an Old Compound.

Salicylic acids have been used in human and veterinary medicine for their anti-pyretic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties for centuries. A key role of salicylic acid-immune modulation in response to microbial infection-was first recognized during studies of their botanical origin. The effects of salicylic acid on bacterial physiology are diverse. In many cases, they impose selective pressures leading to development of cross-resistance to antimicrobial compounds. Initial characterization of these interactions was in Escherichia coli, where salicylic acid activates the multiple antibiotic resistance (mar) operon, resulting in decreased antibiotic susceptibility. Studies suggest that stimulation of the mar phenotype presents similarly in closely related Enterobacteriaceae. Salicylic acids also affect virulence in many opportunistic pathogens by decreasing their ability to form biofilms and increasing persister cell populations. It is imperative to understand effects of salicylic acid on bacteria of various origins to illuminate potential links between environmental microbes and their clinically relevant antimicrobial resistant counterparts. This review provides an update on known effects of salicylic acid and key derivatives on a variety of bacterial pathogens, offers insights to possible potentiation of current treatment options and highlights cellular regulatory networks that have been established during the study of this important class of medicines.

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