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The Penicillin Story

One morning in September 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming who just got back from a holiday, returned to a lab full of contaminated and overgrown plates of staphylococci.  While decontaminating the old plates, he noticed some inhibition of bacterial growth around a mold contaminant and took interest because his previous works have been on finding effective antibacterial agents.  He later identified the mold as Penicillium spp., named the extract as penicillin, and published his findings in British Journal of Experimental Pathology in 1929.

1-12A-PENICILLIN-TRIVIA_FLE.jpgAfter realizing the inherent difficulty in cultivating the mold and purifying the active agent, he thought this discovery had little application.

However, about nine years later, pharmacologist Howard Florey and biochemist Ernst Boris Chain read his work and took interest in exploring it furher chemically.  They later successfully achieved purification and large-scale production of the first antibiotic which, after having saved millions of lives since its introduction in 1942, was later acclaimed as the miracle drug of the 20th century. 

For this notable achievement Fleming, Florey and Chain shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1945.