Penicillin is an antibiotic drug. There are several antibiotics these days. Antibiotics are drugs which are useful in the prevention and treatment of infections. ‘Anti’ means against and ‘biotic’ means life. Antibiotics work against disease producing bacteria.
Antibiotics are themselves made from bacteria, molds or larger plants. The first one to be discovered was penicillin. It is used today to treat serious infections by various germs. Even sore throats, boils, pneumonia and wounds are treated with penicillin.
Penicillin was discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928. It was an accidental discovery, which led to great advancement in medical science. Fleming (1881-1955), a Scottish bacteriologist, had actually been doing research on another subject when he chanced upon this discovery.
In 1922 Fleming discovered Iysozyme, which was an antibacterial enzyme present in the saliva, nasal secretions and in tears. While studying this he found an unusual mold which was growing in a neglected culture dish. It seemed to inhibit the growth of bacteria. He isolated that particular culture dish and grew it into a pure culture. Thus penicillin was discovered accidentally all because a scientist had neglected to clean his culture dish! The green mold that grows on bread is pencillium glaucum. There is a mold very much like it found in the soil called pencillium notatum from which we get penicillin.
Between 1939 and 1941, two other researchers, Howard Flory and Ernst chain, resumed Fleming’s initial work. Penicillin was eventually patented in 1943. Penicillin began to be commercially produced and was widely used during the World War II. Alexander Fleming shared the Nobel Prize in 1945 for Physiology and Medicine together with the other two researchers.
Fleming’s discovery led other scientists to search for other antibiotics. Streptomycin, aureomycin chloramphenicol and terramycin were the other antibodies discovered. These days many of the penicillin used is semi-synthetic. Some of the factory made ones are used to kill germs that are not killed by the penicillin made from molds.
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