Tuesday, February 5, 2013

P. chrysogenumby and Penicillin

Diary of a Fungus: P. chrysogenumby and Penicillin

Fungi have proven to have numerous medicinal properties, but none may be as important of a breakthrough in medicine and science as the antibiotic penicillin. The no doubt brilliant Scottish scientist, Alexander Fleming, discovered penicillin accidentally in the early 20th century. It was quickly known as a wonder drug and was used for nearly every ailment! Penicillin truly has saved countless people from what could have horrible sickness, and even death. Before penicillin was ready for mass production and use, World War II had begun. The war and dire need to save lives from the rampant bacterial infections placed high pressure on scientists, researchers and laboratories to move more quickly.  The need for mass production was clear to save our soldiers on the front lines. A researcher by the name of Mary Hunt made the mass production possible by recognizing a particular fungus (P. chrysogenumby) growth on a cantaloupe at the supermarket and the rest is history. 
 The importance of the drug penicillin is indisputable and evident in the history of healthy and healing patients. However, the overuse of this drug has created the most penicillin-resistant strains of bacteria. As I said, in the early years penicillin was prescribed to treat everything, even the common cold. The drug has no effect on viruses but antibiotics do kill the healthy, good bacteria in a person's body. This allows the bad bacteria to flourish causing even worse sickness (even disease). Another issue is the patient's who stop taking their antibiotics when they start feeling better. This allows those bacterial cells that were the toughest, or semi-resistant, to stick around and take over.  
Despite these drawbacks, I am very grateful for the drug penicillin, as well as the scientists and researchers that turned a simple mistake into a success!

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