Who first predicted the spread of antimicrobial resistant bacteria?
Alexander Fleming, a well-known bacteriologists, accidentally discovered the world’s first antibiotic substance penicillin in 1928. He had been aiming for clinical applications of penicillin, but abandoned them owing to toxic substances included in culture media. After that, biologists Haward W Florey and Ernest B Chain achieved great success in purifying penicillin, and confirmed the clinical effect on humans. Furthermore, they achieved the industrial production of penicillin in 1945, and that led to development of large scale clinical applications on humans. In Japan, penicillin, named hekiso, started to be produced industrially and applied about the same period which indicates that Japanese fermentation technology was at a high level in those days. Concerning the discovery and clinical application of penicillin, Fleming, Florey and Chain received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1945.
By the way, most of you might imagine that antimicrobial resistant bacteria appear after the clinical application of antibiotics. However, it is said that penicillin-resistant bacteria was first detected in 1940 when penicillin wasn’t utilized for humans. Yet, Fleming was concerned about that and mentioned it in his Nobel Prize lecture; “There is the danger that the ignorant man easily under-dose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug, make them resistant.” Thus, surprisingly, he was the first man who predicted the spread of antimicrobial resistant bacteria. He had already pointed out the importance of using antibiotics properly, and that is now actively promoted to take measures for antimicrobial resistance. We cannot help admiring that one of the greatest historical researchers not only made a landmark discovery, but also did not forget to sound a note of warning for the future.