Penicillin: A story of triumph and tragedy
The story of penicillin was once a tale of triumph over infection. But the misuse of antibiotics has contributed to the spread of superbugs, such as MRSA, and the threat of a tragic end to the antibiotic age.
In the 1950s antibiotic resistant staphylococci proved a great hazard in hospitals. They proved particularly threatening exactly 50 years ago during the global flu pandemic. Although the flu itself was generally minor, many people died from complications caused by these bacteria. Then new penicillins were developed to defeat the challenge, in particular methicillin.
Today we worry about bacteria resistant to methicillin and most other antibiotics. But there is not the same hope as 50 years ago in a technological fix. If penicillin is to remain useful, doctors and patients need to take responsibility for using it correctly. We must go beyond a simple post-war belief that wonder drugs will always save us.
This exhibition links the triumphant story of penicillin’s introduction and development with today’s warnings that tragedy must be averted.