Sialic acid is a generic term for the N- or O-substituted derivatives of neuraminic acid, a monosaccharide with a nine-carbon backbone. It is also the name for the most common member of this group, N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac or NANA). Sialic acids are found widely distributed in animal tissues and to a lesser extent in other organisms, ranging from plants and fungi to yeasts and bacteria, mostly in glycoproteins and gangliosides (they occur at the end of sugar chains connected to the surfaces of cells and soluble proteins). Some bacteria also use host-sialylated structures for binding and recognition. For example, evidence indicates that free Sia can behave as a signal to some specific bacteria, like Pneumococcus. Free sialic acid possibly can help the bacterium to recognize that it has reached a vertebrate environment suitable for its colonization. Modifications of Sias, such as the N-glycolyl group at the 5 position or O-acetyl groups on the side chain, may reduce the action of bacterial sialidases.