Sunday, January 29, 2017

Staph and Penicillin, what a story!!

Radiolab did a story on Penicillin, how it was discovered in 1928 accidentally.  The petri dishes were left out over the weekend and when the lab assistant gathered them up one dish was spotted with multiple dead zones.  Something had killed the staphylococcus.  Voila, Penicillin.  It was not until 1944 that Penicillin was ready to be used.  Unfortunately it was resistant to staph with a year or so.   The search for other penicillin commenced until today because of resistance, we only have one or two drugs capable of taking down MRSA.

Next Radiolab interviewed two women from England; one is a microbiologist who likes to play Vikings etc as a hobby and the other is a historian who specializes in Vikings and who likes microbiology as a hobby.  These two hooked up, compared hobbies and decided to conduct some research.  They found a 1000 year old book, sort of a herbalist book with cures and etc.  They had a nice digital copy to read in Old English, one of the two ladies was expert in Old English.  The books was called Bald Leach. (name of the author I think).  They eliminated most recipes that promised to purge the devil and narrowed their search to perhaps obtainable ingredients.  They found one recipe that ended, "The best medicine". It was a recipe for curing wens, or stys in the eye, which was caused by staph aureus.  Ah HAH!  They decided to assemble the ingredients to make the concoction.  First item was garlic and first ingredient was related to onions so they used onion as the second ingredient.  Third ingredient called for ox bile.  Apparently it is not as uncommon as you might think and they were able to obtain a supply of ox bile.  Last ingredient was wine.  They deduced that they would use a winery near where the book was originally written.  The last thing called for it to be mixed in a brass kettle.   They didn't have a brass kettle and threw in a copper penny which was a near equivalent.

Next came chopping and much mashing in mortar and pestle.  Next part of the recipe was to cover the mixture for 9 days.  They explained that medieval recipes had to provide a length of time to process ingredients and if it called for four Hail Mary's, that was roughly the equivalent of 20 minutes.  Because.  There.  Were.  No.  Clocks.  y'see.

After nine days the mixture was put on  simulated wounds smeared with staph.  They checked back the next day and 99.99% of the staph was dead, dead, DEAD.  They couldn't believe it.  They re-ran the experiment again and again.   Same result.  Discussion held, why did this recipe fall into disuse.  They conjectured that the staph grew resistant, the mixture no longer worked, so fell into disuse.

This raises an interesting question if a non penicillin mixture can kill staph in the 21st century, after being inactive for hundreds of years, is it possible for penicillin to be left fallow for a few years to let the resistant organisms die out then cycle the older penicillin back into use?  Anybody out there trying this?  After all it takes 10 years and a billion dollars to manufacture another drug.

I do not know if there is any follow up to the Sty treatment but seems like some homeopathic outfit would jump all over this yeah?

And, I know for a fact that MRSA can be literally scrubbed from a wound in skin wound cases and this works topically only.  The thought of someone scrubbing my infected wound with a dilute mixture of bleach makes my skin crawl, but if it works, better than having MRSA eat yer face.

1 comment:

Retro Blog said...

Pure coincidence. Listened to NPR report this morning. A young woman reporter was telling the story of her son went to camp and came home with a pin worm infection. He was given a 3 dollar per pill drug and pinworm infection cleared up in two weeks. Fast forward to current day. Research scientists discovered that their specifically bred white mice were infected with pin worm. These mice were being tested with a cancer injected in their brains. The infection cleared up but NONE of the mice developed the cancer. So the first phase test went forward using this old pin worm drug and the numbers look good. The drug now costs 300 dollars per pill because original manufacturer went out of business. The drug sold a couple of times and well you know it cost the current owner MILLIONS of dollars to purchase and you know the usual story. Greedy bastids.