Medicine through time

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Penicillin - The significance of the Breakthrough

The discovery, development and subsequent use of penicillin can be considered to be one of the most important breakthroughs in medical history.

Penicillin prevents a large number of germs from growing. As it is an organic substance it can be used on, or in, the human body. This meant that for the first time something was available that could, potentially, prevent the decay of the body or infection from germs whilst operating.

The immediate impact of the discovery is clear. The drug was developed quickly in the War years by the American government. By developing the drug so readily and so quickly the US Governemtn prevented many soliers from having war wounds becoming infected: the drug therefore saved a lot of lives and, it could be argued, played a role in helping to win the war for the Allies.

The fight against infectious disease: pages within this unit

What is an Infectious Disease? A Glossary of Infectious Diseases, Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, Vaccination, The Development of Drugs, Paul Ehrlich, Gerhard Domagk, Alexander Fleming, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, The importance of Penicillin, Factors affecting the development of drugs and treatments.

Activities within the Unit

Glossary vocabulary test This activity checks your knowledge of infectious disease
Drag and Drop game Do you know who developed each form of medicine?
Breakthrough against Infectious Disease Use the information in this unit to answer a detailed question, then see how it compares with a suggested response. Ideal revision tool.

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