Saturday, December 1, 2012

Florey vs Dawson : penicillin to be perfect & a war medicine OR an imperfect but universal medicine ?

patricia (Patty) Malone penicillin breakthrough september 1943
Baby Patty Malone helped the whole world discover penicillin 
As should be well known, penicillin-the-molecule and penicillin-the-lifesaver were discovered September 1943 by the whole world, (not in September 1928 by Alexander Fleming) while natural-penicillin-the-universal-livesaver was invented on October 16th 1940 by Henry Dawson.

Penicillin-the-molecule was ignored in June 1929, firstly by Alexander Fleming himself and secondly by the world.

This was because Fleming on that date indirectly denied any possibility of penicillin ever becoming a lifesaver, ie a systemic ( spread through the blood system) medication.

As a result, Fleming - and the world - yawned.

Contrast this with Banting team's excited, animated, passionate announcement --- at a Boxing Day medical conference just a few years earlier  -- that it was  just two weeks away from injecting insulin-the-lifesaver into a dying patient.

(What a Boxing Day present for millions of diabetics and their familes !)

You can just bet that insulin-the-lifesaver and insulin-the-molecule were discovered together, by the entire world, at that moment.

What about Howard Florey then ? Didn't he play some role in penicillin ?

Yes, some role.

But Florey ,along with Fleming, and along with the British and American governments together with the leading firms in the pharmaceutical world, was convinced that penicillin first must be perfected (100% pure, industry-made, probably synthetic, tested-onto-death) before being used on humans .

 And even then 'humans'  really meant 1A military personnel only, at least during the war.

In addition, they all only saw penicillin as an useful supplement to the existing sulfa drugs - mostly for use in sulfa-resistant staph infections.

Truly a perfectionist and limited vision of wartime penicillin.

One can only begin to imagine the high prices that would be charged governments and patients for such perfect material.

Chain deserved less credit for his chemistry and more for his pushiness , in forwarding the penicillin story to a happy conclusion...

By way of total contrast, only five weeks after learning of penicillin's lifesaving potential (and here Florey and above all Chain deserve the credit) , Dawson was injecting life-saving penicillin into 4F civilians ( Negroes ! Jews !) dying from a strep infection (SBE) , using imperfect , impure, hospital-made, natural, penicillin made by slimey molds.

Yes, like Banting's first insulin injections, Dawson's first penicillin injections 'stung like a bee', from natural impurities still in it. The stings, in both cases, did no permanent (or even temporary) harm.

To Dawson (and to Banting, his model) saving dying patients today with imperfect, impure medication was preferable to letting them die so we can maybe save dying patients, years from now, with a perfected pure medication.

These clashing visions of penicillin ran throughout the war with Florey's vision overwhelming dominant until Dawson's success with -stolen - government issue penicillin on SBE patients inspired another local doctor (Dante Colitti) to jump over the traces for his dying patient as well.

The resulting  heart-stirring story of baby Patty Malone ( late August - early September 1943) broke the media floodgates and the entire civilian world began to "ACT UP" and demand Dawson-style penicillin - now !

By 1944, the Allied governments, dragging the still reluctant Big Pharma firms along with them, had caved.

Semi-purifed, semi-perfect - CHEAP- natural penicillin was being mass produced and being made available for all, as fast as that was humanly possible.

And not just Allied civilians as well as Allied military personnel , but for Axis POWs , Neutral nation civilians and ultimately even Axis civilians.

Canadians Banting and Dawson and Canadian Medicare : there is a pattern here :  a strong belief in medical care that is universal in theory as to who is permitted to receive it (everyone, anywhere) and universal in practise (as a result of being very inexpensive).

But it wasn't something simply discovered and instantly received with acclaim by everyone - as science historians want you to believe how science works : as a totally bloodless affair.

 Instead, it was invented by some humans and contested fiercely by some other humans until finally most humans accepted it.

Invented by people like Banting, Dawson and Douglas ...

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