History of Antibiotics

  ~ 1495 Europeans Mercury ------> syphilis (Treponema pallidum)

  ?? Chinese Moldy soybean curd -----> boils (furuncles, carbuncles) (S. aureus)

  ?? S. American Indians Chewed bark of cinchona tree ----> malarial fever (Plasmodium spp.); Wore sandals furry with mold -----> foot infections

  ~ 1630 Europeans Quinine (bark of cinchona) -----> malaria (Plasmodium spp.)

  1877 Louis Pasteur Inhibition of some microbes by others; anthrax (Bacillus anthracis)

  1908 Gelmo Synthesized sulfanilamide (1st sulfonamide)

  1908-10 Paul Ehrlich Selective stains; Synthesized arsenic compound arsphenamine; (Nobel Prize) ("606", Salvarsan) -----> syphilis (T. pallidum); Coined terms "magic bullet," "chemotherapy," "chemical knife); Further progress delayed by physician hesitancy

  1913 Eisenberg Studied bactericidal properties of azo dyes with sulfonamide grouping

  1924 Gratia & Dath Systematic search of soil microorganisms; Discovered actinomycetin from Actinomycetes

  1928/9 Alexander Fleming Inhibition of S. aureus colonies by mold Penicillium notatum; (Nobel Prize) Discovered "miracle drug," penicillin

  1935 G. Domagk Prontosil (only active in vitro) but converted in the body tosulfanilamide moiety (active in vivo) which was secreted in the urine; analog of vitamin para-aminobenzoic acid

  1939 G. Domagk Therapeutic value of sulfonamides (sulfur group of compounds); (Nobel Prize) Streptococcus and broad range antimicrobial activities

  1939 Rene Dubos Isolated gramicidin and tyrocidin from Bacillus brevis; Active against gram positive bacteria

  By 1945 Pharmacologists had 5488 derivatives of sulfanilamide (sulfonamides)

  1944/5 Selman Waksman Isolated streptomycin from Streptomyces griseus (soil microbes); (Nobel Prize) Active against some gram negatives and Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Proposed term "antibiotic" = chemical compound made by a microorganism that inhibits or kills other microorganisms at low concentrations

  1945 Florey & Chain Reinvestigated, isolated and characterized penicillin; (Nobel Prize) Demonstrated practical clinical value as better means to prevent death from infection of war wounds

   Go to Chemotherapy of Bacterial Infections



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