1945 Warning of Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance

But I would like to sound one note of warning. Penicillin is to all intents and purposes non-poisonous so there is no need to worry about giving an overdose and poisoning the patient. There may be a danger, though, in underdosage. It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them, and the same thing has occasionally happened in the body.

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 underdose 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 then infects his wife. Mrs. X gets pneumonia and is treated with penicillin. As teh streptococci are now resistant to penicillin the treatment fails. Mrs. X dies. Who is primarily responsible for Mrs. X's death? Why Mr. X whose negligent use of penicillin changed the nature of the microbe. Moral: If you use penicillin, use enough.


At his Nobel lecture for discovering penicillin, Alexander Fleming warns that if you use, use enough to kill. Maiming the bacteria will make it resistant.

Folksonomies: natural selection medicine antibiotic resistance nobel prize

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 Penicillin, Nobel Lecture
Proceedings of Meetings and Symposia>Speech:  Flemming, Alexander (December 11, 1945), Penicillin, Nobel Lecture, Nobel, Retrieved on 2013-11-21
  • Source Material [www.nobelprize.org]
  • Folksonomies: medicine antibiotics penicillin