In 1928, a Scottish bacteriologist named Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin while tidying up his lab. He was about to toss a moldy petri dish into the trash when he noticed something strange about the bacteria – it wasn’t growing as well as it should have been. However, it would be another twelve years before penicillin would become a lifesaving drug; two Oxford scientists – Howard Florey and Ernst Chain – produced a brown powder capable of retaining the antibacterial properties in 1940.
The new drug was rushed into mass production and sent to the war front during the early years of WWII. Today, penicillin is used to treat anything from minor wounds to tonsillitis and pneumonia. Unfortunately, some people are allergic to penicillin. Is it possible for dogs and cats to have an allergic reaction too?
Penicillin works by inhibiting bacteria from building a sustainable cell wall. Fleming noticed that mold on the petri dish was attacking bacteria surrounding it to get more space and nutrients it needed to grow, by releasing a bacteria killing compound that prevented some bacteria from forming new cell walls. This process is called antibiosis, which is where the word antibiotic comes from. Once Fleming isolated and identified the antibacterial compound, he named it penicillin. The discovery of penicillin was hailed as the first miracle drug, and has saved countless number of human and animal lives over the years.