Penicillin is one of the original antibiotics used to treat and prevent a variety of bacterial infections in the body such as dental, ear and skin infections, tonsillitis, UTIs, and strep throat. The name “penicillin” was taken from the Latin word “penicillium” meaning “a painter’s brush” because the fronds of the Penicillium fungi were thought to look like a painter’s brush. It was discovered accidentally at St. Mary’s Hospital in London by Dr. Alexander Fleming in the late 1920s.
Penicillin’s ability to cure people of many once-fatal bacterial infections has saved so many lives, that it’s easy to understand why it’s called a “miracle drug.” Many people who believe they have an allergy to penicillin do not. A skin test is the best way to find out whether you have a penicillin allergy.
If you use penicillin and then develop hives, have trouble breathing or vomit, you’re having an allergic reaction. People who have anaphylaxis symptoms must seek help immediately. For emergency treatment, people typically get an epinephrine shot. Some people may get mild reactions such as diarrhea or headache and can be treated with an over-the-counter antihistamine. Regardless, you should let your doctor know about any penicillin reaction right away.
How exactly does penicillin work? Penicillin’s main objective is to seek and destroy bacteria. It does that by weakening a bacteria’s peptidoglycan. Peptidoglycans are a combination of amino sugars and peptides that form a mesh-like structure around the membrane of the bacteria that keeps external fluids and particles from entering. When penicillin is near bacteria, it attacks and weakens the peptidoglycan-cell wall, causing them to simply burst, which inhibits growth. Penicillin has saved countless lives throughout its impressive medical career. In today’s world, doctors, such as myself worry about the onward march of antibiotic-resistance. Only time will tell how the antibiotics of the future will jump this hurdle. With such medical advancements, anything could be around the corner though. Until then, eat right, stay happy and healthy!
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.