Structural Biochemistry/Alexandar Fleming

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Photo of Alexander Fleming

Alexander Fleming, a Scottish doctor, is credited for being the first to discover the powerful antibiotic penicillin. As a doctor during World War I, he saw many people die because of infections.

The way in which he discovered penicillin is a rather humorous tale, but its impact has helped save millions of lives.

After the war was over, Dr. Fleming went into a London hospital to find antibacterial agents of Staphylococcus aureus, which is a pathogenic bacterium. Upon experiments and testing with no luck, Fleming was fed up and decided to take a vacation. He was gone for a month, and when he got back, the plates were contaminated with the mold Penicillium notatum. The bacteria in the plates were inhibited.

This was the first discovery of an agent which inhibited bacteria, and in 1929, he named it Penicillin.

Another scientist, by the name of Howard Florey, helped Flemming produce penicillin; however, the raw materials in creating penicillin were scarce and the process was lengthy so they only had small amounts at the time.

In 1941, a policeman by the name of Albert Alexandar was the first human to be tested with penicillin. The drug had a great effect and was curing the man, but due to the limited supply of penicillin, they did not have enough to fully cure the man, thus he died.

By 1943, penicillin was being produced in mass and this was saving millions of lives.

In 1945, Fleming and Florey shared the Nobel Prize for this discovery.

Where there comes discovery, there also comes error. By 1947, the first penicillin-resistant pathogen came about.

Regardless, Fleming's contributions to the world of biochemistry have been immense and have truly revolutionized the world of medicine.