Rovner 1 Alex Rovner Benton 2B 15 December 2011 The Discovery of Penicillin and How it Contributed to the Advancement of Antibiotics Because of the invention of antibiotics, many diseases that were previously untreatable became possible to cure, and the rate of death from infectious disease considerably lessened. Previous to antibiotics, many people suffered from horrible diseases that would shorten their life by a significant amount. Some examples of these awful diseases are small pox, tuberculosis, and pneumonia, which all almost always resulted in death. The invention of antibiotics helped solve this problem by being able to cure some diseases and giving hope to other sufferers. The invention of many antibiotics, including penicillin, revolutionized medicine by helping cure bacterial diseases, whether deadly or not, and starting a whole new era in the evolution of medicine. Calvo (373) states that Alexander Fleming was experimenting with staphylococcus when one of his petri dishes was contaminated with Penicillium notatum, a species of mold. Surrounding the mold there was a ring where no bacteria grew, and Fleming concluded that the mold secreted a substance that caused this pattern. He called the substance Penicillin. Alexander Fleming accidentally came across the first penicillin by accident when he came back from a vacation and realized that one of his petri dishes had been contaminated with a species of bacteria and mold (B. Lerner and K. Lerner 276). The mold caused the bacteria to turn transparent and lyse. He named Penicillin after the mold, Penicillium. According to Woolf (245), after leaving a petri dish for a few days, Alexander Fleming came back to it to find that there was Rovner 2 a new mold spore with a colony of bacteria growing on it. He observed that the bacteria on top of the mold had become transparent while the bacteria not on the mold had continued to grow. He concluded that the mold was an antibiotic. Penicillin was thus discovered by Alexander Fleming after he discovered a petri dish that was not sanitized. It contained a mold that repelled bacteria. Woolf (245-252) states that even when the penicillin was diluted from 500 to 800 times, its effectiveness was still very strong. Penicillin works by stopping bacteria’s cell walls from working, eventually killing the bacteria over time. One problem, though, is that it does not threat several kinds of infections including the common cold, whooping cough, and tuberculosis. According to Calvo (373), Fleming diluted the substance (penicillin) hundreds of times and it still was effective. Penicillin also did not destroy white blood cells like other antiseptics did. He injected it into animals and it proved to not have negative effects. The development of antibiotics has cured almost all bacterial infectious diseases that were incurable prior to their development (B. Lerner and K. Lerner 276). The rate of death of bacterial infection in the United States is now lower than suicide or car accidents. Penicillin has proven itself to be an incredibly strong antibiotic that is harmful to bacteria but harmless to almost all other animal cells. B. Lerner and K. Lerner (276-277) state that the discovery of many new strains of bacteria that are resistant to penicillin has stimulated intense research on the search for new and improved antibiotics. The field of antibiotics has expanded greatly to include thousands of new antibiotics to cure the diseases caused by an undefined number of species of bacteria. According to Hoyle (51-53), only a few years after the introduction of penicillin, a new bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus was reported being resistant to penicillin, which caused horrible infections. This discovery led to the introduction of new antibiotic research in learning about and designing new drugs that kill the bacteria without stimulating the development of resistance. Rovner 3 Research in the field of penicillin’s resistance to different species of bacteria has shown that high doses of penicillin can kill some resistant bacteria that are not killed in a normal dose (Demerec 74). As new bacteria became resistant to penicillin, scientists found new ways to destroy the bacteria including higher doses of penicillin and research into discovering new antibiotics. Antibiotics play a major role in saving the lives of millions of people, and changing the way people look at medicine. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin by complete accident, but this small mistake led to the advancement of many new antibiotics. Penicillin kills bacteria by stopping their cells walls from working, so it helps stop hundreds of bacterial diseases in humans from worsening. Penicillin has triggered the research and investigation into how to come up with new antibiotics to stop new, resilient bacteria. Without antibiotics, medicine would not have advanced nearly as fast as it did, and many more people would still suffer today from deadly bacterial infections. Rovner 4 Works Cited Calvo, Sherri Chasin. "Sir Alexander Fleming." Science and Its Times. Ed. Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer. Vol. 6: 1900 to 1949. Detroit: Gale, 2000. 373-374. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. Demerec, M. "Origin of Bacterial Resistance to Antibiotics." Journal of Bacteriology 56 (1948): 63-74. Print. Hoyle, Brian. "Antibiotic Resistance." Infectious Diseases: In Context. Ed. Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2008. 51-55. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 2 Nov. 2011. Woolf, S. J. "Sir Alexander Fleming--Man of Science and of Penicillin." American Scientist 33.4 (1945): 242-45. Print. World of Microbiology and Immunology. Ed. Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 218-277. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.