Monday, July 18, 2011

18 July 1919: "Blade of Grass Is Responsible for Loss of Foot"

On this day in 1919, the Athens Banner published this article about something that is currently foreign in our modern world of antibiotics:

Antibiotics were not discovered until 1928, by accident, when a petri dish of bacteria became contaminated with mold, and the scientist, Alexander Fleming, went away for two weeks on vacation. It took another 11 years of work by Oxford University scientists Ernst Chain and Howard Florey to isolate and purify penicillin into a medical product.  

In 1940, they announced their positive results curing mice of the strep bacteria in a paper in the Lancet, and in 1943 were able to publish their positive results treating wounded Allied soldiers in North Africa. In 1945, all three men were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Ten new classes of antibiotics were discovered between 1940 and 1970, but few pharmaceutical companies are currently pursuing this line of medicine.

Antibiotic resistence from "misuse" is something Dr. Fleming warned of in his 1945 Nobel Lecture. Today, childhood ear infections, tuberculosis, and malaria have become difficult to treat with the antibiotics we have today, and the widespread of use of antibiotics and antibacterial cleaners in hospitals has led to 70% of all hospital-acquired infections being resistant to at least one antibiotic.

In 1919, Mr. Jones made a recovery after the loss of his foot, and was still listed as the athletic director of the Athens Y.M.C.A. in the city directories a decade after this event. 

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