Non–anti-infective Effects of Antimicrobials and Their Clinical Applications: A Review

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Antimicrobial agents are undoubtedly one of the key advances in the history of modern medicine and infectious diseases, improving the clinical outcomes of infection owing to their inhibitory effects on microbial growth. However, many antimicrobial agents also have biological activities stemming from their interactions with host receptors and effects on host inflammatory responses and other human or bacterial cellular biological pathways. These result in clinical uses of antimicrobial drugs that are distinct from their direct bacteriostatic or bactericidal properties. We reviewed the published literature regarding non–anti-infective therapeutic properties and proposed clinical applications of selected antimicrobials, specifically, macrolides, tetracyclines, sulfonamides, and ketoconazole. The clinical applications reviewed were varied, and we focused on uses that were clinically relevant (in terms of importance and burden of disease) and where published evidence exists. Such uses include chronic inflammatory pulmonary and skin disorders, chronic periodontitis, gastrointestinal dysmotility, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. Most of these potential therapeutic uses are not Food and Drug Administration approved. Clinicians need to weigh the use of antimicrobial agents for their non–anti-infective benefits, considering potential adverse effects and long-term effect on microbial resistance.

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