Penicillin is the first discovered antibiotic derived from bread mold Penicillin, which was discovered in 1929. It turned out that some species of bacteria live in harmony with the mold, but streptococci and staphylococci does not develop in the presence of mold. By 1940, penicillin became available for use in medicine, as well as it has been used successfully for treating soldier’s infections during the Second World War.
The principle of the work of an antibiotic is inhibition or suppression of chemical reactions that are necessary for bacteria’s existence. Penicillin blocks the molecules involved in the construction of new cell walls of bacteria.
The first injections of a new medicine were made to a human being on February 12, 1941. One of the London’s policemen cut himself while he was shaving, and he got a blood poisoning. The first injection of penicillin was made to a dying person, and the patient’s condition improved immediately. But there was too little of penicillin and it finished very quickly. The disease has resumed, and the patient died. Despite of this, it was a real triumph of science, as it has proved that penicillin is very effective against blood infection. A fifteen-years old boy, who was ill with blood poisoning and whose sickness couldn’t be cured was a lucky one. He was the first human, whose life was saved with penicillin (Shoemaker 2001).
The huge number of lives was saved due to penicillin. But at the same time penicillin showed that some bacteria and microbes can get a resistance to antibiotics. It is known that some bacteria are very adaptable to the changing environment, including drugs that are used against them. The first Streptococcus that was not killed by penicillin was found in Australia in 1967 and another case was reported seven years later in the United States. The penicillin resistant streptococcal pneumonia was found in a patient who was ill with pneumococcal meningitis. In 1980 it was estimated that 3-5% of Streptococcus pneumonia were penicillin resistant, and by 1998 34% of the samples of streptococcal pneumonia were resistant to penicillin (Doern 2001).
Antibiotic resistance in other organisms shows the same trend observed between streptococcal pneumonia, and penicillin. Tetracycline resistance of normal human intestinal flora raised from 2% in the 50’s to 80% in the 90’s (Doern 2001).
Microbial resistance was gained by the presence of the enzymes that modify or cleave antibiotics, or by the development of the properties of the surface membrane and cell wall to reduce the penetration of antibiotics or to their rapid withdrawal from the cell.
Enzymes that metabolize antibiotics get encoded by respective genes in the mobile elements (plasmids, transposons), which are passed from one bacteria to another and eventually lead to the total sustainability of the whole population of bacteria to the antibiotic.
Such an antibiotic resistance in populations of microorganisms is a natural consequence of the theory of evolution. Resistance to penicillin and other types of antibiotics has become an important public health problem of international importance and requires urgent and special attention nowadays. As a result more than 25 thousand people die from infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year in the European Union (Shoemaker 2001).
Humanity can continue using penicillin and other antibiotics avoiding their fast evaluation and resistance, observing certain precautions. In order to solve the problem of resistance and evolution of antibiotic it’s necessary to call upon acting the whole society, health workers, who prescribe the antibiotics, organizers and policy makers of the pharmaceutical industry, to ensure a responsible attitude towards the use of antibiotics, to establish effective monitoring of antibiotic use and resistance to them, and actively promote the development of new antibacterial drugs.
Doern, G.V. et al., 2001. Antimicrobial resistance among clinical isolates of Streptococcus pneumoniae in the United States during 1999-2000, including a comparison of resistance rates since 1994-1995. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 45(6)1721-1729.
Shoemaker, N.B. et al., 2001. Evidence for extensive resistance gene transfer among Bacteriodes spp. and among Bacteriodes of other genera in the human colon. Applied and EnvironmentalMicrobiology 67:561-568.