Because the box for, "This Day in History," changes every day, a quote is provided below:
First Patient Successfully Treated with Penicillin (1942)Penicillin was the first antibiotic agent successfully used to treat bacterial infections in humans. Penicillin's effect on bacteria was first observed by biologist Alexander Fleming in 1928, but it was not until 1941 that scientists purified the substance and established that it was both effective in fighting infectious organisms and not toxic to humans. The first successful treatment occurred the next year. Where did scientists find the mold that allowed them to mass produce the drug?Source: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/penicillin; Accessed 14 March 2010
I remember taking penicillin pills about the size of a pin head when I was small and had ear infections. They tasted so terrible...two small pills. Even buried in a, "spoonful of sugar," those penicillin pills tasted so badly. Just thinking about that taste is enough to cause me to grimace. If you had penicillin pills around the same time, you know what I mean!
My mother explained to me at that time that people used to die from ear infections if the infection spread to the nearby brain, and, how penicillin was a miracle for all the lives it saved.
How far we have come since the day in March 1942 when a patient was first treated with penicillin! Now we need to be reminded to use soap and water (and not antibiotic-based soaps and dish detergents). We need to be reminded what putting antibiotics into our cows and chickens does to our ability to get rid of infections. We don't want to get germs resistant to all of the drugs we have available and go back to the days when an ear infection was life-threatening. Therefore, it is a good idea to understand some of the underling biology.
First there is the idea that some, "germs," are...good. Can you believe it? Yes, good. Your body has on it (and in it) populations of bacteria. In fact, you can think of it as a bit like a football field with teams (of germs) battling each other to win. The idea is that you want to have enough good germs to win the game (of life). Live cultures help: pickles, sauerkraut, yogurts, cheeses, all with live cultures...not sterilized and sealed in a can, jar, or bag. A healthy diet and sleep and exercise also help. So does washing your hands frequently with a bar soap and water. By the way, did you know that the foamy alcohol-based hand cleaners in hospitals do not kill all the supergerms (VRE, C-diff, MRSA, etc.:That takes soap and water and sometimes chlorine bleach.)?
Second of all is the idea that we are organisms like germs are organisms. We have the same chemicals in our DNA, our genetic material, as the bacteria do. Hmmm! That means some things bad for them are bad for us, too! Lets use fungi for an example here. Do you know anyone with toenail fungus? It sure is hard to get rid of that organism without hurting the person, too. The pills for eliminating the fungus adversely affect the human. Liver and kidneys work overtime. Bacteria, too, share the same kind of DNA chemicals: the ones we need for life.
This brings us to the third and major point: To battle germs, we need to remember and use the concept of the unity and diversity of life. The unity comes about when we reflect on how the genetic chemicals the adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine that link in A-T and G-C pairs to form, "the steps on the twisted ladder," that is the DNA molecule. This molecule is similar in all organisms, of course, each bearing its own sequence of nucleotide base pairs. That is the, "unity," of life part. We and bacteria use the same types of metabolism or body chemistry. Of course, you don't look like a bacterium, or for that matter, you don't look like a fungus, either. That is the diversity part. It is the play between the unity and diversity of life that enables us to use drugs like penicillin to get rid of the bacteria. For fungi, because their chemistry is closer to our own than bacterial chemistry is, it is harder to eliminate the fungi.
Let's look at drugs in our food and water supply. I can't do all the thinking for you. Use Reach Reading<^>TM<^> and get into the journal articles. Each of us needs to form our own opinions based on data, and then, we can inform public policy. In the United States, we can inform our Senators and Congressional Representatives. In other countries, use the mechanisms in place there. We can wash our hands with soap and water. We can eat kimchee, yogurt and other healty-bacteria laden foods. We must work together globally to stay ahead of, "bad germs," and enhance populations of, "good germs." Each of us has an important role to play. The reminder on penicillin in today's news item is a good place to start.