History of Penicillin


Penicillin was discovered by a Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming in 1928.1 However, a man named Laureate Howard Walter Florey was the first to use it as a medicine. Fleming found that certain blue-green molds inhibited the growth of the bacteria

Staphylococcus. Mold from a cantaloupe was found to have the best quality of penicillin mold. After this Fleming isolated the mold and saw that it was a Penicillin mold. Penicillin is found to be most effective against Gram-positive bacteria and not effective against Gram-negative organisms.1

Penicillin is an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections. The types of pathogens it can treat are Staphylococci, Streptococci, S. Pneumonia, or bacterial pneumonia, Bacillus anthracis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Treponema pallidium. Penicillin works against an enzyme called Transpeptidase, which aids in the formation of the cell walls in bacteria.3 Transpeptidase links amino acids into peptide chains that are part of the bacterial cell wall. When penicillin is taken it blocks the action of Transpeptidase. This causes the wall of the cell to be very weak in places. As a result, the bacteria can no longer grow.3

There are quite a number of reactions that can occur from penicillin. They include: diarrhea, nausea, rash, hives, and sometimes seizures. Also, penicillin has been known to make birth control pills less effective, often causing pregnancy. The allergy to penicillin is the most reported medical allergy. However, only twenty percent of the patients who claim to be allergic to penicillin truly have an allergy.

Most people don’t understand that Penicillin was discovered, not invented. Also, when it was first used people often overused penicillin which lead to numerous penicillin resistant strains of bacteria. This can also be caused by not finishing a prescription completely. Interestingly, there are about fifteen different types of penicillins, some are: Metampicillin, Broadcillin, Epicillin, telampicillin, and Sualcillin.2 Probably the most misunderstood thing it that it does not kill bacteria, it prevents the growth of it.

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