1909

The antibiotic "golden" era begins

The discovery of the first drug to treat syphilis, called salvarsan, was finally found after examining 606 chemicals, which is why it was often referred to as “606”.
Three scientists discovered salvarsan, or 606: Paul Ehrlich, Alfred Bertheim, and Sachachiro Hata. Due to its dangerous side effects, people blamed the scientists for profiting from a dangerous drug, and Ehrlich was accused of criminal negligence. Luckily for him, he was eventually exonerated.


1912

Ehrlich makes newer, safer Neosalvarsan

In 1912, Ehrlich created neosalvarsan. Similar to salvarsan, the new drug had fewer side effects and became the main treatment for syphilis until it was replaced by penicillin in the 1940s.

1920s

Prontosil is discovered (the first sulphonamide)

In the 1920s the examination of a huge number of chemical compounds against bacteria led to the discovery of Kl730 by Bayer chemists, which later became known as prontosil. Prontosil, discovered by Josef Klarer, Fritz Mietzsch, and Gerhard Domagk, gave rise to the sulphonamides, a class of antibiotics.

1928

Penicillin is discovered

On 3rd Sept 1928, after a holiday, Alexander Fleming discovered that one of his petri dishes had grown mould, which killed nearby bacteria. This led to the discovery of penicillin.

1931

Penicillin-soaked cloth is used to cure eye and skin infections


Dr. Cecil George Paine applied penicillin-soaked pads to the skin of babies that were suffering from gonorrhoeal infections and cured them. He used the same method to cure a patient with a dangerous pneumococcal eye infection.

1939

Domagk is awarded the Nobel Prize & forced to decline by Nazis

The prize was awarded for the discovery of the antibacterial effects of prontosil. But the Nazi Germany government forced him to decline it, as Hitler had banned acceptances of Nobel Prizes after Carl von Ossietzky, an outspoken activist against fascism, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. 

(In an attempt to make up for this, a formal award ceremony was held in 1947 to present Domagk with his Nobel Prize diploma and medal.)

First antibiotic to work in a mouse, found through new screening system

René Dubos discovered tyrothricin; the first antibiotic in history to show strong antimicrobial activity in a mouse. It was also the first antibiotic to be found by screening, or examining, large amounts of soil bacteria. This method of screening led to the discovery of many more antibiotics over the years, and still does today.

1941

Penicillin starts to save man from a rose bush infection and penicillin is mass-produced


Police officer Albert Alexander was dying from a scratch from a rose bush. After taking penicillin, he began to recover, until the penicillin ran out. He eventually died. 

Howard Florey, Ernst Chain and Norman Heatley took penicillin from the petri dish to large-scale production.

1943

Winston Churchill is saved by antibiotics and a tuberculosis cure is found


Winston Churchill was suffering from what could have been a fatal case of pneumonia when Lord Moran and Brigadier Bradford saved him using a new antibiotic: sulphapyridine, a sulphonamide.
 
Albert Schatz and Selman Waksman isolated and developed streptomycin, the first aminoglycoside (a class of antibiotic) and the first effective drug against tuberculosis.

1939-1945

Penicillin saves soldiers in World War II


Penicillin was widely used during World War II to cure battlefield wound infections and pneumonia

1945

Cynthia Cummins is saved from a life-threatening infection by penicillin

Cynthia Cummins is a British lady who lived in Switzerland during the Second World War. In 1945, when she was aged 18, she succumbed to a serious bacterial infection, most likely Streptococcus pneumoniae, and ended up in hospital. Among other procedures she had to have a jugular vein removed. She was fortunate as she worked for the American Embassy in Bern and was able to be given penicillin supplied by the Americans. After several months in hospital she made a complete recovery.
Cynthia is now aged 88 and is the mother of three children and the grandmother of five. Penicillin saved her life.

1945

Penicillin can now be taken by mouth and Nobel Prize is awarded for discovering its structure. First Cephalosporin is discovered

Penicillin V was discovered. It is the first successful penicillin that could be taken orally.
 
Dorothy Hodgkin used X-rays to discover the structure of penicillin. She was later awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this achievement.
 
Giuseppe Brotzu explored a sewage outlet in Sardinia and found a fungus growing in the seawater nearby; the first cephalosporin was isolated from this. He went on to become president of the Sardinian Regional Council and later Major of Cagliari.
 
Edward Abraham & Guy Newton isolated cephalosporin C. Abraham patented it and set up trust funds with the proceeds.

1947

Chloramphenicol is discovered

Ehrlich and his colleagues discovered the first amphenicol (called chloramphenicol), a new class of antibiotic.
 
Interestingly, in the same year, Gottlieb and colleagues also came across chloramphenicol.

1948

First tetracycline is discovered using soil – and saves toddler’s life

Global soil samples were analysed by Benjamin Duggar & in 1948 he revealed the discovery of chlortetracycline, the first tetracycline, a new class of antibiotic. Chlortetracycline had a broad range of targets and proved itself in 1948 by saving 5-year-old Tobey Hockett’s life, even when all other antibiotics had failed. He had surgery for appendicitis and the wound became infected. This was an experimental antibiotic only at the time.

1949

New alternative developed for people allergic to Penicillin: Erythromycin

Erythromycin producing bacteria were isolated by a scientist named A. Aguilar from Iloilo City, Philippine Islands. The isolates were sent to the Eli Lilly Company. Erythromycin was the first macrolide and was an essential alternative for people who were allergic to penicillin, because it inhibited the growth of similar bacteria.

1950

Colistin is discovered

Y. Koyama in Japan isolated the first polymyxin, called colistin. This was replaced in the 1970s by less toxic drugs. Now, antibiotic resistance has forced its revival.

1952

Missionary sends soil sample from Borneo to his scientist friend: leads to discovery of vancomycin

A soil sample from Borneo was sent from a missionary there to his friend E. C. Kornfield. Vancomycin was discovered from this sample. Vancomycin was the first glycopeptide and, with the rise of methicillin-resistant bacteria, proved to be an essential medicine for human health.

1957

Chemical modification becomes popular. Penicillin made chemically and Rifampicin made in the lab. New drug to combat Penicillin- and Streptomycin-resistant bacteria discovered.

J.C. Sheeman was the first person to chemically make penicillin; this lead to hundreds of new penicillin variations, including ampicillin. Penicillin was unstable and hard to make; Sheeman said building it in the lab was like "placing an anvil on top of a house of cards"
A crude material was isolated from N. mediterranei, and was nicknamed Rififi after a popular French crime film. This nickname formed the basis of the group of antibiotics that were later isolated, the rifamycins. By chemically modifying the rifamycins, rifampicin was created. This drug became essential to treating tuberculosis.
The Umezawa group in Japan managed to isolate kanamycin. It was a break-through drug that could kill bacteria that were resistant to penicillin and streptomycin.

1962

Accidental cure for gingivitis puts a new antibiotic on the market

Metronidazole, the first antibiotic in the nitroimidazole class, was only ever used to treat non-bacterial infections. But in 1962, it accidentally cured a bacterial infection – gingivitis – and is still commonly used to treat bacterial infections today.

1969

Swann Report recommends restrictions on use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animals

The Swann report recommended to the government that antibiotics used in human medicine should not be used as growth promoters in animal production, and that a committee with the authority to review and recommend antibiotic use in humans, animals, and horticulture should be established.

1976

New “last resort” drugs discovered to treat resistant bacteria


The pharmaceutical company Merck found a new class of β-lactam antibiotics, called carbapenems, which were able to kill bacteria that were resistant to other β-lactams. Carbapenems are considered to be drugs of ‘last resort’, but resistant bacteria have still emerged. If carbapenems stop working, there will be few alternative treatments left.

1985

Sweden is the first country to regulate a ban on the use of antibiotic growth promoters in farm animals


In 1984, Swedes learned that 30 tonnes per year of antibiotics were being used in national food animal production. Consumer confidence in meat safety dropped and led to the first national regulated withdrawal of antibiotic growth promoters in food animal production.

1990

Creator of The Muppets dies from bacterial pneumonia

On May 16, 1990, Jim Henson died after being admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. The culprit, Streptococcus pyogenes, is the type of bacteria that usually causes strep throat, scarlet fever, and rheumatic fever. Henson delayed going to the hospital, and these few extra hours allowed the bacteria to spread so fast within him that he died from streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, despite being given various antibiotics. He was only 53.

1994

Denmark bans routine preventative use of antimicrobials in food animal production.

1997

Link between drug-resistant bacteria in animals and in humans is becomes clear to the world

The World Health Organization holds a meeting to discuss the use of antibiotics in animals. 70 participants from human and animal health fields were invited to the meeting on October 17 in Berlin, Germany, to review the hazards associated with antibiotic use in production animals. At this meeting, evidence was presented to show the transfer of antibiotic resistance from microbes in livestock populations to humans, supposedly through the food chain. Antibiotic-resistant strains of four bacteria that were transmitted from animals to humans were shown to have consequences for human health; Salmonella, Campylobacter, Enterococci, and E. coli. Enhanced global antimicrobial resistance surveillance is suggested.

1998

World Health Organization recognizes dangers of animal antibiotic use and suggests prudent use of fluoroquinolones in food animals


A meeting of the World Health Organization in June in Geneva, Switzerland, on the potential consequences of fluoroquinolone use in production animals led to the recommendation that all Member States adopt a prudent use policy for fluoroquinolones in animals.


2001

New drug to treat MRSA reaches the market

Linezolid was introduced to the marketplace. It was the first of a new class of antibiotics known as the oxazolidinones. Linezolid is often used to treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

2004

Famous UK actress Leslie Ash is temporarily paralyzed by MRSA and gets £5 million compensation

‘Men Behaving Badly’ TV star is admitted to hospital with broken ribs after falling out of bed and contracts MRSA, a multi-drug resistant bacteria, in the hospital. She is left paralyzed for months, and spends 10 years battling the infection with medication and learning to walk again. She sued the UK National Health Service for negligence and received £5 million in damages.

2005

Infection following a liver transplant kills UK Football legend

George Best, who was taking immunosuppressive drugs for a past liver transplant, was admitted to hospital on October 1 with flu-like symptoms. It turned out to be a kidney infection, that he spent the next 24 days in hospital battling while it spread all through his body, no matter what the doctors did. On October 25, he finally died at age 59 of a lung infection and multiple organ failure.

2006

EU bans all antibiotic growth promoters in food animals

The European Union declares a ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in production animals.

Sinus infection kills famous American Football player

Jack Snow, a former Wide Receiver for the Lost Angeles Rams turned sports broadcaster dies at age 62. A run-of-the-mill sinus infection caused by staphylococcus bacteria spread to his blood and infected the site of an old hip replacement. Jack battled the infection for months before finally succumbing to the bacteria.

2012

GAIN and the FDASIA became law in the USA

Issued in September, the report identified the need for intensified cooperation between the USA and the EU to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance.
The Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now (GAIN) and the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA) were signed into US law on 9 July 2012 to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance. A few months later, in September, the USA Food and Drug Administration announced the formation of a task force to support development of the Antibacterial Drug Development Task Force (ADDTF), and assisted in developing and revising guidance related to antibacterial drug development, as required by GAIN.

2013

Antibiotic Resistance makes it onto the global risks register and India changes antibiotic regulation laws


The World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2013 and 2014 recognised the magnitude of the global burden of antibiotic resistance and included it on the global risks register. In India, the Chennai Declaration led to changes in Indian law aimed at ending the sale of over the counter antibiotics.

Dutch TV Star and Top Model almost dies from E.coli infection

Daphne Decker, a famous Dutch TV-show host, writer, and former ‘Holland Top Model’, goes to the hospital for what she thinks is a standard bladder infection. They give her antibiotics, but they don’t work. The E. coli infecting Daphne’s bladder is resistant to 7 of the 8 antibiotics that exist to treat the bacteria.

2014

World Health Organization (WHO) published its first report on the global status of antimicrobial resistance, antibiotics win £10 million prize, UK sets up AMR Commission

The WHO report indicates how wide scale of the problem.

In July The UK Parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee reported on the findings of its inquiry into antimicrobial resistance, and antibiotics won public support and was voted the winning topic of the £10 million Longitude Prize.
Also in July the UK Prime Minister declared the need for urgent and global action: he announced the launch of a commission: Review on Antimicrobial Resistance.

2015

Teixobactin and new method of discovery found, WHO releases Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance

Teixobactin, a new antibiotic with a promising ability to avoid resistance, is discovered using soil. This new method of discovery, inserting semi-permeable microchips containing one bacterium each into ordinary soil to isolate antibacterial compounds, allows us to investigate millions of strains of bacteria that researchers had previously not been able to examine in the lab, opening up a world of possibilities for antibiotic discovery.
In the same year, the World Health Organization released a Global Action Plan, calling for global, concerted action on antimicrobial resistance.

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