Penicillin - discovery

In contrast to the sulfa drugs, which were deliberately developed from a series of industrial chemicals, the first antibiotic was discovered by accident. 

Alexander Fleming, a Scottish physician and bacteriologist, almost tossed out some culture plates that had been contaminated by mold. Fortunately, he took a second look at the curious pattern of growth on the contaminated plates. Around the mold was a clear area where bacterial growth had been inhibited. Fleming was looking at a mold that could inhibit the growth of a bacterium. The mold was identified as Penicillium notatum and later renamed Penicillium chrysogenum. In 1928 Fleming named the mold's active inhibitor penicillin. Thus, penicillin is an antibiotic produced by a fungus. The enormous usefulness of penicillin was not apparent until the 1940s, when it was finally tested clinically and mass produced.


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