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Repurposing celecoxib as a topical antimicrobial agent

There is an urgent need for new antibiotics and alternative strategies to combat multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens, which are a growing clinical issue. Repurposing existing approved drugs with known pharmacology and toxicology is an alternative strategy to accelerate antimicrobial research and development. In this study, we show that celecoxib, a marketed inhibitor of cyclooxygenase-2, exhibits broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive pathogens from a variety of genera, including Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Listeria, Bacillus, and Mycobacterium, but not against Gram-negative pathogens. However, celecoxib is active against all of the Gram-negative bacteria tested, including strains of, Acinetobacter, and Pseudomonas, when their intrinsic resistance is artificially compromised by outer membrane permeabilizing agents such as colistin. The effect of celecoxib on incorporation of radioactive precursors into macromolecules in Staphylococcus aureus was examined. The primary antimicrobial mechanism of action of celecoxib was the dose-dependent inhibition of RNA, DNA, and protein synthesis. Further, we demonstrate the in vivo efficacy of celecoxib in a methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) infected Caenorhabditis elegans whole animal model. Topical application of celecoxib (1 and 2%) significantly reduced the mean bacterial count in a mouse model of MRSA skin infection. Further, celecoxib decreased the levels of all inflammatory cytokines tested, including tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-6, interleukin-1 beta, and monocyte chemo attractant protein-1 in wounds caused by MRSA infection. Celecoxib also exhibited synergy with many conventional antimicrobials when tested against four clinical isolates of S. aureus. Collectively, these results demonstrate that celecoxib alone, or in combination with traditional antimicrobials, has a potential to use as a topical drug for the treatment of bacterial skin infections. 

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