The Discovery and Research of Penicillin
Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin while examining a stray mold in his London laboratory in 1928, and its eventual development by Howard Florey and Ernst Chain at Oxford University, created a major break through to another world of antibiotics and medicine. Antibiotics like penicillin have become the most important family of drugs of this era. During the 1940’s (World War 2) penicillin became a life saving drug to thousands of soldier’s, it also defeated a major bacterial scourges such as blood poisoning and pneumonia, scarlet fever and diphtheria. And accidentally helped advance a sexual revolution as well as a medical revolution. The story of how the mold’s active ingredients were isolated and transformed into the world’s first wonder drug isn’t known to a full extent, and the credit of penicillin development is largely misplaced; from Fleming discovery and Florey and Chains further research and help. The development of penicillin was the last of four advances in 150 years to deal effectively with infection. Unlike the other three, whose lifesaving abilities were known at the beginning, the usefulness of the penicillin mold could not be committed until Florey’s team performed it’s own laboratory accomplishments. Although Florey never made a profit from their research, Fleming, Florey, and Chain did share a Nobel Prize. At time of this discovery, no British pharmaceutical companies could comprehend the future potential of this drug when first presented to the medical and scientific community. Unlike the American labs, scientists Merck, Abbot, and Pfizer received royalties from the manufacturing, while the final development and accomplishment of penicillin took over 12 years, it became the birth of the some of the largest drug companies and the shift in eras from medicine. Penicillin launched the awakening of the antibiotic age; prior to its commencement there was no strong treatment for infections like pneumonia, gonorrhea, or rheumatic fever. Hospital care was extremely poor and dangerous. People contagious with blood poisoning contracted from a minor scratch or cut could receive little help from doctors. Antibiotic are created from combinations of bacteria and fungi that are causes for diseases that can lead to death. Phenomenon has long been one of these; it may explain why the ancient Egyptians had the practice of applying a poultice of moldy bread to infected wounds. But it was not until 1928 that Alexander Fleming, Professor of Bacteriology at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, discovered penicillin, the first true antibiotic. After a holiday break Fleming returned to his work sorting Petri dishes containing colonies of Staphylococcus, bacteria that causes sore throat, boils, and abscesses. This is when he noticed something very unusual about one dish it was dotted with colonies, one area where a blob of mold was growing. The region immediately around the mold later identified as a rare strain of Penicillium notatum was clear, as if the mold had released something that inhibited bacterial growth. Fleming found that his watery mold was capable of killing a wide range of threatening bacteria, such as streptococcus, meningococcus, and the diphtheria bacillus. His assistance Stuart Craddock and Frederick Ridley were responsible for the almost seemingly impossible task of taking the watery mold and isolating pure penicillin from the mold juice. This proved to be a problem because they were only able to prepare solutions partly because they were very unstable; the solutions were very crude and difficult to work with. In June of 1929 Fleming published his findings in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology, with only a small reference to the possibility of penicillin’s incredible benefits. At this stage it looked as if its main application would be in isolating penicillin. This at least was of practical benefit...
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