Welcome to Miniposts, a series of articles based on posts made to the Bioscription Facebook page. Due to their often lengthy nature, it was decided that reposting them to the main site was appropriate. Please go here to view the original post.
Is aspirin, anti-acne medicine, and fruits and vegetables actually a mild health concern?
In certain situations, quite possibly.
Salicylic acid is a common plant compound that functions as a hormone and also has been utilized as a pain reliever. As you’d expect from the list up above, it is the primary component in aspirin and other medications. It is also, being a plant hormone used in development, photosynthesis, and transpiration, found in all the plants we consume.
To The Research!
Researchers in a collaboration between universities in Argentina and Austria recently published a study discussing an unfortunate side effect that salicylic acid may contribute to. The conditions required for it are highly specific and likely to never come up for the average person, but it is concerning when they do.
One of the molecular mechanisms that the acid is involved in is the complexes it forms with iron, including in our blood. Normally not a huge problem, except for people that are suffering from a Staphylococcus aureus infection.
S. aureus is usually not a pathogenic bacteria, instead attacking its host body only in an opportunistic manner when conditions change that make it threatening. Because of its colonization of the nose and upper respiratory tract, it is easy to see how such an attack could be dangerous.
Those that regularly consume high levels of salicylic acid, such as from aspirin, and at higher dosage levels than normal have the potential to cause a debilitating effect. When the acid complexes with more and more iron, it steals away that iron from S. aureus’ grasp.
This, in turn, triggers S. aureus into its negative environmental conditions status, confused into believing (for all that a bacteria can “believe”) that it is now in an iron-poor environment. Such a response causes the bacteria to intensify its creation of what is known as a biofilm, a slime-like layer that can choke up the respiratory system.
A biofilm is normally used as a way for the bacteria to survive longer in a hostile environment. What it doesn’t realize is that it is still in its same host body and not in the outside world.
All of this can eventually cause severe S. aureus infections of the respiratory systems, ones that are longer-lasting and far more difficult to treat. There is even the possibility of it proving fatal in some patients.
You Are (Probably) Safe
As previously noted, for practically everyone, this is not a concern that will ever arise. But this new understanding of the connection between salicylic acid and Staphylococcus aureus is important for those in the medical field when assigning treatments and medications.
With more knowledge, we can hope to better treat people in the future and prevent any potential loss of life.
Photo CCs: Salicylic acid crystals from Wikimedia Commons