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Trivia Antibiotics

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  1. Before the advent of antibiotics, mercury was given as a remedy for syphilis. Now we evacuate buildings if a thermometer breaks.

  2. Selman Waksman, who discovered streptomycin coined the term "antibiotic,"  He intended that word to refer solely to compounds isolated from living organisms.  Thus, antimicrobial drugs synthesized entirely in the laboratory are not technically "antibiotics."

  3. In 1954, two million pounds of antibiotics were produced in the United States. Today the figure exceeds 50 million pounds.

  4. Many antibiotics come from molds.  An Egyptian physician, quoted in the Ebers Papyrus around 1550 BC, stated that if a "wound rots. then bind on it spoiled barley bread." Indeed, the Egyptians used all kinds of molds to treat surface infections. The ancient Chinese also used molds to treat boils, carbuncles, and other skin infections.  So, there really is a reason to ignore those leftovers in your refrigerator, right?  It’s all in the name of science….

  5. It is estimated that greater than 70% of the antibiotics used in U.S. are given to feed animals (e.g. chickens, pigs and cattle) in the absence of disease.  Farmers want to avoid sickness and think it makes the animals grow bigger.

  6. Sulfa drugs, developed in 1935 from chemicals used in the dye industry, were the first effective drugs used to fight bacterial infection in humans. Unfortunately, they were only useful for a few diseases and had many side effects.

  7. Some antibiotics, such as the penicillins, are 'bactericidal', meaning that they work by killing bacteria. They do this by interfering with the formation of the cell walls or cell contents of the bacteria. Other antibiotics are 'bacteriostatic', meaning that they work by stopping bacteria from multiplying.

  8. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 18 million courses of antibiotics are prescribed for the common cold in the United States per year. Research shows that colds are caused by viruses. Fifty million unnecessary antibiotics are prescribed for viral respiratory infections.

  9. According to a Harris Poll, while 89 percent of the American public knows that colds and flu are caused by viruses--not bacteria--46 percent still believe that antibiotics are somewhat effective in combating their cold.  They are not effective against viruses.

  10. Leafcutter ants which live in the semi-tropic areas of North America, Central America, and South America grow fungus to feed their larvae.  They carry streptomyces bacteria which produce antibiotics to keep their “crop” from being overgrown.