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Penicillin From Mouldy Bread

awnlee jawking
Updated:

I remember reading a story in which the protagonist, in primitive conditions (perhaps time-travel or a doover), synthesised penicillin from mouldy bread to save someone from an otherwise potentially fatal infection.

Does that ring any bells?

AJ

zellus

@awnlee jawking

http://storiesonline.net/s/51490/will-and-carrie
http://storiesonline.net/a/Rotedrachen

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@zellus

That's a story I've never read before but thanks for the suggestion, I'm definitely going to read it.

AJ

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

synthesised penicillin from mouldy bread to save someone from an otherwise potentially fatal infection.


are you sure they synthesised the penicillin?

There's a few time travel and do-over stories where people use the mouldy bread on a wound or infection to save a life because they know about the origins of penicillin. I did that in Will to Survive and I've seen it in some other stories I can't name right now.

Replies:   Wheezer
grandad_rufus

@awnlee jawking

Possibly aubie56 A close call ?

Wheezer

@Ernest Bywater

are you sure they synthesised the penicillin?

I'm guessing it is a misued word and he meant purified or extracted.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
zellus

http://storiesonline.net/s/46771/the-case-of-the-duplicate-duke
http://storiesonline.net/a/Reprobate_Rodent

"It starts with a common bread mold. I believe it is called Penicillium Notatum. It is a gray-green mold which produces tiny amounts of a powerful compound which kills bacteria."

Replies:   sejintenej
Oyster

Something like that happens in the second or third story in the "I fell through" series by The Old Guy, but it is the protagonist who needs the penicillin due to infection from a gunshot wound:

http://storiesonline.net/a/The_Old_Guy

1. http://storiesonline.net/s/48813/i-fell-through
2. http://storiesonline.net/s/48822/a-new-life
3. http://storiesonline.net/s/49170/what-the-future-may-bring (incomplete)

sejintenej

@zellus

"It starts with a common bread mold. I believe it is called Penicillium Notatum. It is a gray-green mold which produces tiny amounts of a powerful compound which kills bacteria."

A warning: due to my training I looked at this a bit further. There are many species of penicillium which, yes, can grow on bread and other foodstuffs and are blueish. Many are very toxic so do not be tempted to circumvent the doctor.
The penicillin we use was developed from a mould on a canteloup melon but had to be treated further

Replies:   Lugh
awnlee jawking

@Wheezer

I'm guessing it is a misued word and he meant purified or extracted.


You're absolutely right. My bad!

AJ

madnige

The earliest I remember reading of the use of mouldy bread like this was in The Gate to Women's Country some 30 years ago, one of my favourite stories.

koehlerrock

@awnlee jawking

Completely off topic, but is your name a play off of the term "only joking?"

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@koehlerrock

is your name a play off of the term "only joking?"


The answer depends on which alphabet agency you work for ;)

AJ

awnlee jawking

Thanks for all the replies. I think Ernest's 'Will to Survive' is the story I was looking for. I'd like to read all the other stories mentioned but I've just been abducted by aliens and I'll be maxed out fending off their anal probes for the next few days.

AJ

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

I've just been abducted by aliens and I'll be maxed out fending off their anal probes for the next few days.


The Cosmic Interracial Association is a problem everywhere.

Lugh

@sejintenej

The penicillin we use was developed from a mould on a canteloup melon but had to be treated further

Penicillin chemistry was an area of my undergraduate research.

Correct. The original organism was Penicillium notatum, but the strain you mention was Penicillium chrysogenum. Key difference: P. notatum is strictly aerobic so only can grow on the surface of the culture medium, while P. chrysogenum can be grown in an aerated liquid. Even before growth accelerators, productivity of the latter is based on the cubic volume of culture medium, not the square surface.

I doubt that you'd get a useful concentration from bread mold. Now, I'm going ro rely on memory here, for an extraction that I haven't done in a few decades. One filters off the mycelium (the visible mold), then acidifies the liquid, and shakes it (or uses more efficient mixing) with petroleum ether. The crude penicillin leaves water solution and goes into the pet. ether. Additional steps involve successive solvents that are more preferred by the penicillins, reducing the volume and eventually evaporating.

During WWII, when the first clinical use was done, everything was in short supply. They needed flat large-volume culture media that could be sterilized. A creative supply person came up with a large stock of covered porcelain bedpans.

The first patient was a member of the Oxford police force. They really didn't have enough to treat, but he was clearly dying. His response to the first doses was miraculous. They tried their best to extract enough excreted penicillin from his urine, but ran out, and sadly watched him die.

This led to the jingle,
"Penicillin. A most strange substance.
Grown in bedpans
And purified by passage through the Oxford Police Force."

I've thought about if I could make it, or other drugs, in a time travel story. My answer is maybe, depending on what chemicals and equipment were available. I'd try some extraction techniques that might be more efficient, such as absorption onto activated charcoal. Column chromatography might be an approach to later stages.

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