Sunday, February 10, 2013

Penicillin : biologic 1929-1939 , chemotherapeutic 1939-1949

In 1944, Frank M Berger ( later creator of the post-war drug Miltown but then just a worker in a local municipal public health lab in the remotes of northern England)  came up with an unique way of making and using penicillin.

On second thoughts, his method might well have been done first by Alexander Fleming's Wright-Fleming vaccine institute and their pharmaceutical distributor Parke-Davis about 15 years earlier : Penicillin the Biologic.

On further further reflection : should have been done first by Alec Fleming.

Berger's penicillin was only concentrated and purified to the point that not too much penicillin was lost or too much scarce labour and expensive equipment used to create and extract it.

This biological penicillin, Berger claimed,  was safe, potent and cheap  ---and liquid.

Liquid --- and stored cold in the hospital that made it, ( not usually stored more than a week at most), until the next life-threatening case of blood poisoning in that same hospital was cured by its systemic (ie by needle) application.

The immediate use of whole liquid blood (another biologic dismissed earlier in the war) right at the front lines of combat was/is vital for survival of the badly wounded soldier.

But immediately pouring penicillin or sulfa into the man's dirty wound (ie via "local" application) - counter-intutively - is not.

Quickly getting him back to a hospital-like setting where penicillin or sulfa can be given him systemically, and under more carefully monitored conditions, was still useful.

But, it proved not essential to do so immediately even there ; often the staff could afford to wait to first see if signs of systemic infection were present (usually via a temperature rise.)

Ie, Howard Florey's 1939 claim that penicillin was only useful if made into a dry powder that remained stable at room temperature for months at a time was totally in error --- if life-saving was to be its main (wartime) role.

Berger's efforts were merely the best thought out among the number of doctors advocating biologic penicillin, not by any means the first (Dawson) or the most stunning (Duhig) .

By contrast, Florey was the chief high priest of Penicillin the  Chemotherapeutic, (pure,dry,powdery), from first to last its leading advocate....

No comments:

Post a Comment