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About This Product
As the joke goes - What do you give the person who has everything? Penicillin! It doesn't really cure everything, and may have been a natural remedy for thousands of years, but the ability to reliably produce the antibiotic in large quantities revolutionised the treatment of bacterial infections in the mid twentieth century. Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming. This fungus, Penicillin chrysogenum (also known as Penicillium notatum) is one of the most common varieties that can be found in soil.
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Technically, all that penicillin does is to inhibit the enzyme transpeptidase in gram-positive bacteria preventing the crosslinking of the peptidoglycan polymers and impairing the generation of cellular walls. But that is enough to change the world!
It is commonly known that Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming discovered the antibacterial effects of Penicillium (from the Latin for paintbrush, Penicillium the mould produces penicillin the antibiotic agent) in 1928. He returned to his lab after a long-weekend and noticed that the growth of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in a petri dish he had forgotten to clean was constrained.
What is less well known is that Penicillium’s special aptitudes had been noticed by a French medical student named Ernest Duchesne in the late 1890’s – and indeed, that the properties of moulds had attracted the attentions of a number of scientists in the proceeding decades. In fact, the ancient Egyptians and Chinese rubbed mouldy breads and soybean curbs on skin infections thousands of years ago!
Fleming was never able to isolate the penicillin agent, and it was not until World War II, when the hope of treating injured soldiers spurred antibiotic research, that Howard Florey and Ernst Chain managed to do so. However, not all strains of Penicillium produce penicillin equally well (or at all). Commercial production of the miracle drug was limited until an exceptionally productive strain of Penicillium was discovered on a mouldy cantaloupe melon from a market in Peoria, Illinois.
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