Fleming warned us first

I’ve mentioned in previous posts the great danger many of us will be in in future years because all the serious diseases caused by bacteria will have become inured to all the antibiotics that have so far been developed as ‘cousins’ to the original penicillin discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. In the following extract from his speech given when he received the Nobel prize in 1944, he was fully aware of the possible dangers kin using this wonder drug.

Enough notice was taken Fleming’s warning that penicillin and its later antibiotic derivatives were never available over the counter but were only issued on prescription.  Nevertheless, they have been vastly over-prescribed — mainly due to pressure from patients — and thus underused, leaving some bacteria time to mutate resistance.

“The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops.  Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily under-dose himself and, by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug, make them resistant.  Here is a hypothetical illustration. Mr X has a sore throat.  He buys some penicillin and gives himself, not enough to kill the streptococci but enough to educate them to resist penicillin.  He hen infects his wife.  Mrs X gets pneumonia and is treated with penicillin.  As the streptococci are now resistant to penicillin the treatment fails.  Mrs K dies. Who is primarily responsible for Mrs X’s death.”

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