What is the first antibiotic discovered


The development of the antibiotic

The discovery of the antibiotic penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928 is probably one of the most important events in the history of medicine, as infected wounds, inflammations and numerous other bacterial diseases could now be effectively treated. However, some other important discoveries preceded penicillin.

As early as 1896, Ernest Duchesne prepared a solution from mold cultures and injected it into several sick guinea pigs. After the injection given, all animals were able to recover. Thus, Duchesne is considered to be the first discoverer of the antimicrobial effectiveness of molds and already 30 years before Alexander Fleming made the observation that certain molds have antibiotic (bacteria-killing) properties.

Based on the discovery of the causative agent of syphilis, Paul Ehrlich developed the substance arsphenamine in 1910, which was able to specifically combat the pathogen Treponema pallidum without side effects. Ehrlich thus developed the first antibiotic, which then came onto the market under the name "Salvarsan". However, this drug was not based on mold, but on artificially produced dyes. This means that previously incurable infectious diseases can now be treated without major risks. Due to his Jewish origins, however, he was not recognized for his work in Germany for a long time.

However, the discovery of penicillin was rather accidental. In 1928 the bacteriologist Alexander Fleming created a culture medium plate on which he put staphylococci. However, he forgot this over the summer vacation. After his return he noticed that a mold had grown on the nutrient medium, in the vicinity of which the staphylococci could no longer multiply. So Fleming found that the mold was able to kill bacteria. He named this mold penicillin. However, it did not occur to Fleming to use the active ingredient as a drug. The penicillin was also forgotten because it was very difficult to isolate the substance from the mold.

It was not until 10 years later (1938) that the researchers Howard W. Florey and Ernst B. Chain came across Fleming's research results while searching for bacteria-killing substances. After numerous experiments on animals, the first person was treated with penicillin in 1941. He suffered from a high fever, which then subsided after a short time. The penicillin was then stopped and the patient died a few days later. From this, the scientists concluded that long-term use of penicillin is necessary, even if the symptoms have already disappeared. In 1942 the industrial production of penicillin began, which played a major role for the soldiers in World War II. From 1944 onwards the general population could also be treated with penicillin. In 1945 Fleming, Chain and Florey received the Nobel Prize for their discovery.

In the 1970/80s, research was then intensified in the field of antibiotics. Nowadays, antibiotics are among the most frequently prescribed drugs in the world and constitute the largest single area after all of our drug consumption has been recorded. There is already a relatively wide range of antibiotics against bacterial diseases, but only a few substances against viral diseases.


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