Health & Nutrition

A $14,600 piece of mold?!

How much can a piece of mold be worth? Most people will tell you take out a rag some bleach and wipe it away! You would never dream of selling it in a public auction. But when you talk about a piece of mold that helped Alexander Fleming discover penicillin, it's different. Penicillin was the first antibiotic and this piece of mold was sold to an anonymous buyer for $14,600.

Penicillin was first is covered in 1928 totally by accident. Dr. Alexander Fleming a British microbiologist came back from a summer vacation in Scotland and found his lab to be dirty and upside down. He also found that there was  a penicillin mold in his petri dish. A petri dish is where you grow bacteria and in his dishes he grew some very dangerous types of bacteria. However, when he looked at his petri dish under a microscope Fleming was astounded to find that the penicillin prevented the germs from developing.

About his discovery he wrote many years later:  “One sometimes finds what one is not looking for. When I woke up just after dawn on Sept. 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I guess that was exactly what I did.”

This piece of mold that was put up to auction actually belonged to Fleming’s niece. She kept it in a glass case upon which Fleming wrote: “This is the mold that created the first penicillin”. It's possible that it's actually an exaggeration since Fleming used to give out pieces of mold with his writing on the glass to many different people including Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Pope that lived that that time.

Before the discovery of penicillin infectious diseases like lung infection is were dangerous. Even a simple ear infection could be fatal. ‘Once penicillin started to be used sold as an anti-biotic it was called the wonder drug’ said Kevin Brown who is in charge of the archive of Alexander Fleming’s museum.  ‘This discovery started a new era of life saving medicine.’


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