History of Penicillin

Today, antibiotics are used as a matter of course to combat bacterial diseases   , with the help of which many diseases that used to be fatal were alleviated and cured. Although penicillin, the first antibiotic, no longer helps with many germs today due to antibiotic resistance, it was considered a “lifesaver” during the Second World War.

Accidental contamination

For the Scottish doctor Dr. It was a great surprise to Alexander Fleming (1881 – 1955) when he found a “modified” culture dish while doing research at St. Mary’s Hospital in London in 1928. The plate was covered with blue-green mold and its bacterial colonies were severely stunted in growth.

Fleming described his finding: “Amazingly, the Staphylococcus colonies decompose within a considerable radius of the mold growth. What used to be a full-grown colony was now a mere remnant.” His investigations revealed that Penicillium notatum was the “culprit”.

Similar discoveries

Other researchers before Fleming had made similar observations, but Fleming went further in his investigations and found that the fungus inhibits the growth of many bacteria that are deadly to humans,   but does not attack white blood cells .

In 1929 Fleming published his discoveries, but the medical community paid little attention. In 1938, two scientists (Howard Florey and Ernst Chain) stumbled across his publication and managed to isolate and mass-produce penicillin. In 1945 Fleming, Florey and Chain received the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology.

In his speech, Fleming spoke of “purely accidental” contamination. Thanks to this “contamination”: Penicillin has been produced on a large scale since 1944 and has been successfully used to combat many infectious diseases.


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