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Penicillin Man: Alexander Fleming and the Antibiotic Revolution

The time may come when penicillin can easily be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant. . .Mr X has a sore throat. He buys penicillin and gives himself not enough to kill the streptococci but enough to educate them to resist penicillin. He then infects his wife. Mrs X gets pneumonia and is treated with penicllin. As the streptococci are now resistant to penicillin the treatment fails. Mrs X dies. Who is primarily responsible for Mrs X's death? Why Mr X. whose negligent use of penicillin changed the nature of the microbe. Moral: if you use penicillin, use enough.' Fleming, in his Nobel Lecture, 1945.

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