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Antibiotic Resistance (Avaunt Magazine)

Posted on by Brendan Borrell

The antibiotic era began with Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin at St Mary’s Hospital in London in 1928. Fleming had witnessed first-hand the terrible effects of infectious disease while serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War I, watching helplessly as wounded men died of sepsis – a reaction of the immune system to infection, damaging tissues and organs – and he became interested in developing a better treatment to replace the often ineffective antiseptics used at the time.

Fleming had been growing colonies of staphylococcus – a type of bacterium that is ubiquitous on human skin and can easily infect wounds – in Petri dishes, when he noticed an unexpected development. On one dish, which had been left open by mistake while Fleming was on holiday, there was a spot of green mould that was inhibiting the growth of the bacteria. Following some experimentation Fleming discovered that an extract from the mould, Penicillium notatum, was able to kill a wide variety of bacteria.

Read an excerpt of my story from Avaunt Issue 4