Bacterial pathogens detect and integrate multiple environmental signals to coordinate appropriate changes in gene expression including the selective expression of virulence factors, changes to metabolism and the activation of stress response systems. Mutations that abolish the ability of the pathogen to respond to external cues are typically attenuating. Here we discuss our recent discovery of a novel post-transcriptional regulatory pathway critical for Salmonella virulence and stress resistance. The enzymes PoxA and YjeK coordinately attach a unique beta-amino acid onto a highly conserved lysine residue in the translation factor elongation factor P (EF-P). Strains in which EF-P is unmodified due to the absence of PoxA or YjeK are attenuated for virulence and display highly pleiotropic phenotypes, including hypersusceptibility to a wide range of unrelated antimicrobial compounds. Work from our laboratory and others now suggests that EF-P, previously thought to be essential, instead plays an ancillary role in translation by regulating the synthesis of a relatively limited subset of proteins. Other observations suggest that the eukaryotic homolog of EF-P, eIF5A, may illicit similar changes in the translation machinery during stress adaptation, indicating that the role of these factors in physiology may be broadly conserved.