Words of wisdom said “every cloud has a silver lining” as cliche as it sounds but in most cases it’s true. fun fact to that words of wisdom, did you know discoveries that change the world mostly by accident? such as anesthesia, the microwave, viagra, botox, and gunpowder you heard it right, accidental discoveries that change the world are so many. Including a discovery that helps save millions of lives and revitalize the medical world, the discovery of penicillin.
Penicillin is the first therapeutic natural antibiotic drug. First, discover in 1928, penicillin is been around for nearly 100 years.
Sir Alexander Fleming, a Scottish researcher often described as a careless lab technician, returned from a two-week vacation to find that a mold had developed on an accidentally contaminated staphylococcus culture plate. Upon examination of the mold, he noticed that the culture prevented the growth of staphylococci. Fleming published his findings in 1929. However, his efforts to purify the unstable compound from the extract proved beyond his capabilities. For a decade, no progress was made in isolating penicillin as a therapeutic compound. Though Fleming stopped studying penicillin in 1931, the success of sulfa drugs by a German pathologist and bacteriologist Gerhard Domagk in 1935 sparked interest in finding other agents. This is when Fleming’s research about penicillin was discovered then continued and finished by Howard Flory and Ernst Chain, researchers at the University of Oxford who are credited with the development of penicillin for use as a medicine in mice.
However, the purification and first clinical use of penicillin would take more than a decade. The first clinical trial of penicillin in a human was in February 1941. The first patient was an Oxford policeman who was exhibiting a serious infection with abscesses throughout his body. the clinical trial of penicillin was showing an improvement result in his condition after 24 hours, however, The meager supply ran out before the policeman could be fully treated and he died a few weeks later. On the other hand, other patients that receive full treatment show remarkable success.
After the turbulence of patent clash, politics, War, and short supply in 1945 Fleming, Chain, and Florey were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology. The effect of penicillin discovery was colossal, Using similar discovery and production techniques, researchers discovered many other antibiotics in the 1940s and 1950s: streptomycin, chloramphenicol, erythromycin, vancomycin, and others.
Unfortunately, every coin has two sides, where it is good, it is bad. In every goodness aspect that penicillin brings to the table of the medical world, it also brings badness. Apart from the magic of penicillin in changing the face of the medical world in this modern era, several problems arise as a result of this discovery. In an article written by Robert Gaynes for The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) “In addition, despite their essential value in modern medicine, antibiotics are also the only class of drugs that lose their efficacy with large-scale use as bacteria develop antibiotic resistance. We now are struggling with resistant bacteria that cause infections that are virtually untreatable. Infections such as those occurring after transplantation and surgical procedures, caused by these highly antibiotic-resistant pathogens, are threatening all progress in medicine. Yet, drug companies, some of the same companies that helped develop penicillin, have nearly abandoned efforts to discover new antibiotics, finding them no longer economically worthwhile.” Dr. Gaynes is a professor of medicine/infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine and the Rollins School of Public Health.