Thursday, September 13, 2012

If Alexander Fleming had to publish today : would systemic natural Penicillin have languished for 15 years ?

Worth more than GOLD
Most of today's biggest , most influential, most sought after scientific and medical journals demand that any article author(s) agree in advance to post all their notes and data (good and bad) online, before the journal will publish their concentrated (and usually upbeat) thesis in the article itself.

If this is done while the research project is ongoing, it is called "OPEN NOTEBOOK SCIENCE" , but some variant of it is increasing felt essential for fully credible research in highly contested areas of science. (And what area of science isn't ?)

So if Alexander Fleming's famous June 1929 article on penicillin was published today, he and his colleagues' note books would also have to have been online.

In Fleming's mind, he just had to leave in his private notebooks (aka : "massage the data") all the awkward evidence on penicillin's abject failure as a systemic.

He felt that revealing it would have diminished any serious attention being paid to penicillin's considerable - if more modest - possibilities as an antiseptic (if synthesized) and as an useful clearing agent when working with specimens of the 'flu' bacteria (sic).

Medicine's biggest ever boo-boo ?

This dismal "evidence" remained in his private notebooks and he never referred to them in his lifetime because (a) until 1943 he believed his original assumptions were still correct (b) after 1943 and until his death in 1955,  he lacked the guts to admitting he had made one of medicine's biggest ever boo-boos.

But if his notebooks had been nakedly exposed, some readers might have felt Fleming was right - his "in vitro" assumption against natural penicillin as a systemic lifesaver was fully correct.

 But some other readers might have asked, "why don't we get a definitive answer ; let's test the theory "in vivo" , in an actual patient (human or animal) ?"

Because if in 1929 some researchers had seen from Fleming's notebooks that he hadn't undertaken these vital "protection tests" and decided to make good this obvious shortfall, by 1930 penicillin might have been saving lives, not gathering dust in some British curio museum.....

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