Horizon - The Mould the Myth and the Microbe - [1986-01-27]
Penicillin (sometimes abbreviated PCN or pen) is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi. They include penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V. Penicillin antibiotics are historically significant because they are the first drugs that were effective against many previously serious diseases, such as syphilis, and infections caused by staphylococci and streptococci. Penicillins are still widely used today, though many types of bacteria are now resistant. All penicillins are Î²-lactam antibiotics and are used in the treatment of bacterial infections caused by susceptible, usually Gram-positive, organisms.
The discovery of penicillin is attributed to Scottish scientist and Nobel laureate Alexander Fleming in 1928. He showed that, if Penicillium rubens were grown in the appropriate substrate, it would exude a substance with antibiotic properties, which he dubbed penicillin. This serendipitous observation began the modern era of antibiotic discovery. The development of penicillin for use as a medicine is attributed to the Australian Nobel laureate Howard Walter Florey, together with the German Nobel laureate Ernst Chain and the English biochemist Norman Heatley.