What we would do if penicillin was never invented, but who invented penicillin?
On September 15th 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic penicillin.
In the summer of 1928, Fleming left his lab in St. Mary’s Hospital to go on a two-week holiday. As usual, he didn’t clean up before he left, leaving bacteria cultures growing in the petri dishes he was studying. When he returned from his vacation, Fleming discovered that many of his petri dishes had grown moldy.
As he sorted through them, dunking them into a Lysol bath to kill the bacteria, he noticed something strange about one particular petri dish. The blue-green mold that grew in it seemed to have destroyed the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that had been growing in the dish. Fleming realized the mold was special.
After discussing the mold with a mycologist, or mold expert C.J. La Touche, Fleming determined the mold to be a Penicillium mold, a type of mold that grows on bread.
Some 12 years later, during the second year of World War II in 1940, two Oxford University scientists were searching for a way to treat infected battlefield wounds. Howard Florey, an Australian, and Ernst Chain, a German refugee, began experimenting with Fleming’s penicillin. Using a chemical technique, they were able to transform the antibacterial compound in the Penicillium mold into a brown powder that was safe, effective, and had a relatively longer shelf life.
The new drug was needed immediately on the warfront to treat infections and was quickly shipped en masse to army hospitals. Many soldiers who might have otherwise died from simple bacterial infections in minor wounds were saved by the new wonder drug. It also treated diphtheria, gangrene, pneumonia, syphilis, and tuberculosis. By the war’s end, more than 20 chemical companies were manufacturing 650 billion units of penicillin per month to treat soldiers.
As we celebrate today’s day to remember, penicillin is still widely used today, which was all started by Scottish chemist named Alexander Flemming.
Written & Designed by JD Mitchell