The story of penicillin (Events Science stories)


For centuries, people have known how to use mushrooms to treat inflammation. In England, in the middle of the seventeenth century, John Parkinson, a royal physician, knew how to treat wounds by applying moss to heal wounds quickly. By the end of the nineteenth century, in many parts of England, moldy bread pieces were used to treat wounds but these were just what happened before Dr. Alexander Flemming discovered penicillin.

Accidental discovery of Penicillin
In 1928, Flemming was a bacteriologist working at Saint Mary's Hospital in London. While examining culture dishes containing bacteria, he discovered an unusual phenomenon: the fungus appeared on the plate and developed into fungi; Around the mushroom block, bacterial colonies have been destroyed. He concluded that the fungus produced a substance that kills bacteria. This substance resembles an enzyme lysozyme which he discovered several years ago. This substance can kill pathogenic bacteria called Staphylococcus. However, testing on other fungi continued to grow, so Flemming only used the solution for the main purpose of diagnosing the disease.


Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Flemming by accident.

The fungus that grows like the bush is later scientifically named penicillium notatum, while the bactericidal substance is called pennicillin. Initially, penicillin was used to treat superficial wounds, it only brought certain success because in the rough penicillin has very few active ingredients. Flemming tried to remove the pure penicillin but failed. As a result, his interest in penicillin diminished.

Ten years later, in Oxford, under the direction of Howara Walter Florey - an Australian pathologist and Ernst Boris Chain studied the biochemical characteristics of lysozym, the enzyme that kills the bacteria Flemming discovered. .

After the lysozyme research was completed, Florey and Chain began looking for new research topics and the two men noticed penicillin, which was almost forgotten by Flemming. In 1938, Chain and Florey were both fascinated by penicillin, about its ability to bring it to mankind and they are well aware of the significance and importance of this antibacterial agent.

Chain set up culture media and performed penicillin isolation from Flemming's mushroom samples, while Florey focused on animal penicillin testing.

On May 25, 1940, scientists tested the drug on mice. The experiment was very successful. However, before human trials, scientists must create pure penicillin. This is the key. This work was entrusted to Edward Abraham.

Edward Abraham researched to find a separation technique later known as adsorption chromatography. A penicillin-containing mushroom culture solution is passed through tubes filled with adsorbents; they will separate penicillin from impurities.

Florey's lab quickly transformed into a small factory, the tubes filled with penicillin were carefully monitored. However, the plant's output is still low, 500 liters of culture liquid produce only enough penicillin for 4 or 5 people.

Later, the project was transferred to the US, at this time, the goal of the scientists was to make penicillin on an industrial scale. Many techniques, such as the use of ultraviolet rays, X-rays and chemicals that affect the genetic structure of fungi, are used to produce high-yield penicillin strains. In 1943, the penicillin manufacturing project ranked second in the list of priority works after the Manhattan Project to make atomic bombs. In 1944, a case of penicillin treatment costed $ 200, however, this price quickly dropped, cheaper than the product packaging price. In 1945, Flemming, Chain and Florey were awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine.

Penicillin - Weapon against infection
The effect of penicillin makes it a special drug. It works by preventing pathogenic bacteria from synthesizing the cell wall that protects them. When bacteria reproduce as soon as cell division takes place, the bacteria have to create a cell envelope that protects them against invading agents from the outside environment. Penicillin has the effect of weakening the bacterial cell wall; Because there is no strong protective covering, the bacterial cells will be destroyed and the bacteria will die.

Penicillin destroys bacteria without harming body cells. But more and more bacteria are resistant to penicillin, their weapon is penicillinase, an enzyme capable of destroying the chemical structure of penicillin, making penicillin no longer work.

People have discovered pencillin in the fight against pathogenic bacteria, but according to evolutionary laws, they also have weapons against them. Penicillin is just one of the many antibiotics available in nature that kill bacteria. After penicillin, many other antibiotics were discovered.

In 1934, Selman Waksman and Albert Schatz found another antibiotic, Streptomycin, which was also extracted from a fungus found in the soil. Streptomycin was used to fight tuberculosis, and it was Waksman who discovered Streptomycin and was the first to introduce the term antibiotic.

The discovery of penicillin played a leading role in a series of work on the detection of other antibiotics, and thanks to the introduction of many antibiotics, the average life expectancy in the West increased from 54 to 75 in the 1940s. year old.

Today, people know about 6,000 different antibiotics, but most of them are highly toxic, difficult to apply in medicine, so only about 100 types are widely used in medicine today. To find them, scientists had to study soil samples from around the world in search of microorganisms capable of killing bacteria. They have worked hard to bring us many useful antibiotics.

In addition to finding antibiotics in the wild, scientists are still looking for ways to synthesize artificial and semi-synthetic compounds that are resistant to new strains of bacteria that are more resistant. Today, more than 50 years since clinical trials, penicillin is still an important antibiotic in human life.

In our country, the appearance of Western pharmacies existed before the development of antibiotics, so the presence of penicillin pretty soon contributed to the treatment of bacterial infections. In 1950, during the anti-French resistance war, GS. Dang Van Ngu cultured penicillin and used culture solution to treat wounds for wounded soldiers. Currently, Vietnam has many big projects to invest in producing antibiotic materials to meet treatment needs.

Two classic penicillins, penicillin G for injection and penicillin V for oral use, are still used today. Besides the classic penicillin, there are many antibiotics of the descendant type and very new from the leading penicillin produced in our country. It is these very new penicillins that are contributing to fighting off bacterial infections and protecting public health. Many surgeries would not be possible without antibiotics in general, including the penicillin used.

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