Penicillins are the group of antibiotics obtained from the penicillium molds and are used to treat many bacterial infections. Penicillin V Potassium is widely used for the treatment of respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, scarlet fever etc. Before the discovery of antibiotics, even a minor infection became deadly or incurable. Everything from paper-cuts to childbirth could kill a person by bacterial infection. Let us understand when was penicillin discovered and how its discovery paved a way to the advanced era of medicines?

When was penicillin discovered?
Penicillin is among the earliest discoveries & more broadly utilized antibiotic agents. Moreover, Sir Alexander-Fleming is credited for the discovery of penicillin. He was a French-medical student who first noticed the bacteria back in 1896. Fleming's further well-known observations were public two decades later.
Alexander Fleming was a trained bacteriologist who worked at St. Mary's Hospital back in London in 1928. Then he found a plate culture of Staphylococcus that had contaminations of blue-green mold. By inspecting closely, he noticed that bacteria colonies next to the molds were melting. Fleming was curious and started to grow molds in pure-culture. He was capable of viewing colonies of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus being damaged by Penicillium notatum mold. This is how he established the fact that mold growing next to the bacteria was carrying antibacterial properties. Alexander Fleming named this antibacterial substance penicillin & published the findings in the year 1929.
In 1940, the pure penicillin was generated and here begins the animal trial studies. In 1940 itself, 8 mice were exposed to poisonous streptococci bacteria. Only four mice having penicillin dose survived.

Penicillin mass production
Back in June-1941, Florey decided to go with this newly discovered antibiotic to the United States to find a way of scaling up production.
In Peoria, there was a new team set up in the Agricultural research lab Department.  At Peoria lab, they had more corn-steep liquid, which is a by-product of corn starch. They found that when it was added to mold broth, penicillin yield increased exponentially. High sugar concentration, amino acids & nitrogen gave the best environment for the fermentation of molds. They began a global search for mold strains with higher penicillin percentages.

1945 Nobel Prize
Soon after the recognition of the Penicillin's medicinal properties, Fleming, Chain and Florey were awarded Nobel Prize in Medicine & Physiology in 1945. Furthermore, the discovery of penicillin led to the development of many more antibiotics in the labs. Utilizing similar production and discovery techniques, researchers found several other antibiotics during 1940s & 1950s. Those antibiotics include streptomycin, erythromycin, chloramphenicol, vancomycin, & others.

Antibiotics are the only drugs that lose efficiency with repeated usage as bacteria develop resistance against it. Moreover, their continuous use can also upset the good bacteria present in human gut to promote optimal health. Though an antibiotic is intended to affect a particular micro-organism but its continuous use can make that particular targeted as well as other micro-organisms resistant to it.


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When was penicillin discovered?