Antibiotics haven’t been in use for that long…less than a century, in fact. The first antibiotic was discovered, by accident, in 1928.
Alexander Fleming, (a brilliant biologist, pharmacologist, and botanist), had been working with the bacteria staphylococcus, and left cultures in his lab when he went on vacation. Upon return, he noticed that one of the cultures had mold growing in it, and that the bacteria in the immediate area of the mold were dead.
He then spent years testing and developing research based on this mold. He had difficulty finding a chemist to reproduce his lab findings in a form that was easily mass produced and consumable. He eventually gave up. His work was then carried on by Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford with funds from the US and British government. They were able to create a mass producible, ingestible form of the antibiotic, named penicillin (Fleming named it after the type of mold, Penicillium.)
Fleming also noticed that the bacteria were not successfully conquered if too little of the penicillin was used, or if it were used for too short a time. He was the first to caution against antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.
In the near century that has passed, many new antibiotics have been introduced, but it has been 10 years since the last, unique antibiotic was developed. This means that the bacteria that live with us now have had a decade to mutate and adapt against the newest drug. If no new, unique antibiotics are found, a compound that bacteria has not had a chance to outsmart, there will come a time when the arsenal of drugs we now have to fight bacterial infections will be largely ineffective.
There are already strains of bacteria that have become antibiotic resistant: MRSA
(methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
.) My next post will cover more about MRSA, and a new discovery that may help fight this bacteria.
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