How does Penicillin Treat Infectious Diseases?

Penicillin is called a wonder drug for some reasons. It is one of the first few drugs discovered to treat illnesses. Penicillin is derived from the Penicillium mold and is used as a potent antibiotic agent. Antibiotics are natural secretions produced by bacteria or fungi into their immediate surroundings. Moreover, antibiotics inhibit the growth or kill micro- organisms and serve a major role in bio-physiological warfare such as   infection. To learn further the functions of penicillin and its role in treating infectious diseases, it is best to know its background and its development. Today, the diverse types and potency of Penicillin and other antibiotics are used to treat a variety of ailments from minor skin cut or wound to severe infectious diseases (Abraham & Florey). Nonetheless, penicillin is the commonest and oldest medication for the treatment of recalcitrant diseases.

History of Penicillin

It was a French medical student, Ernest Duchesne, who originally observed in 1896 what Fleming saw in 1928. Sir Alex Fleming (a British bacteriologist) noticed that Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium, was destroyed by the Penicillium mold. His curiosity led him to culture the mold and discovered that it indeed produced a substance that destroyed bacteria known to cause diseases. He called the substance Penicillin and he published the results of related experiments; He concluded that the mold was an antibacterial agent, and emphasized that this finding would have therapeutic value when produced in a big quantity (Tames). It was not until more than a decade later when penicillin was used in a powder form, a product that Howard Florey and Ernst Chain developed after isolating the active ingredient.   

How Penicillin Works

Along with other pertinent compounds, penicillin can prevent bacteria from forming a cell wall. Bacteria’s cell membranes are semi-permeable, meaning water can pass through them. The plasma (inside content) of the bacteria has higher osmolarity (higher concentration) than the extracellular wall (Florey). Since extracellular water has a trend to migrate to the higher osmolarity plasma, a pressure would force water molecules into the cell. If this happens, a bacterium can swell and eventually explode. The cell wall is a structure whose role is to stop the permeation of the water into the bacterial cell. This is where Penicillin takes into effect. When applied, this medication would stop the development of the cell wall.

How Penicillin Treats Some Infectious Diseases

Gonorrhoea, a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoea, is one of the infectious diseases in the world. It is clinically manifested as burning pain during urination. There is penile discharge for men; while for women, pelvic pain, and vaginal discharges are common symptoms. If gonorrhoea is left untreated, it causes generalized inflammatory diseases that adversely affect joints and the heart valves. Gonorrhoea is usually treated with penicillin and other antibiotics in pill or injection form. However, this disease has developed some strains that are resistant to the common penicillin medications. Stronger antibiotics are needed for the successful treatment of gonorrhoea.

Infectious mononucleosis, commonly known as the “kissing disease,” which is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), is also an infectious disease treatable by penicillin. One who is infected with the EBV would have fever, malaise, and sore throat. The heightening of a unique kind of white blood cells (lymphocytes) that is the found in the blood brings about these symptoms. Patients who test positive of the kissing disease are prescribed with penicillin and related antibiotics.

Penicillin Resistance and Infectious Diseases

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA is an organism that causes skin infection and other kinds of infection in the human body, and was resistant to Methicillin (a kind of penicillin) treatment. MRSA can be community-acquired, hospital-acquired, epidemic-acquired, and health care-acquired. A “Penicillin-binding protein known as the methicillin-resistant gene” (De la Bedoyere) has been evolving in the MRSA, thus enhancing resistance to many kinds of antibiotics treatments like penicillin and oxacillin. In a 2009 research, it was found that several antibiotic and antiviral resistant genes and toxins have been moved to other viruses that hasten the development of resistant types of MRSA. Thus, it is labelled as the “superbug” due to its resistance to many kinds of antibiotics and antiviral medicines. “Flesh-eating bacteria” is also another term coined for MRSA because it speedily spreads and destroys the human skin. MRSA is found just about anywhere in the world. It can be passed from one person to another by direct contact with the infected part. Indirectly, it can also be passed on by using the same things like towels and utensils of an infected person and touching these things to a cut or abrasion in the skin.

The longer the duration of the exposure, the higher dangers of the development of resistance even with the knowledge of the requirement for more antibiotic treatments (Weling). As the resistance grows very common, there is a prevailing need for other kinds of treatments of MRSA. However, even if there is a great need of alternative antibiotic treatments, there is a felt decrease of newer drugs approved for use. This makes antibiotic resistance a big problem.

Penicillin Use Today

Penicillin antibiotics are still widely used today to cure infections caused by bacteria. However, because of it prevalence and popularity for over decades, many strains, and types of bacteria has become resistant and immune (Bud). This drives doctors to prescribe large doses or other types of antibiotics to treat the infections. Still, an important prescription drug, Penicillin, has been improved and there are more recent versions of the same drug. The amount/dosage and frequency of administration would depend on the ailment. For example, Penicillin G is strong in fighting bacteria found in lungs, livers, bones, kidneys, and muscles. Penicillin G also infiltrates regions in the body where abscesses are formed. It is also good for treating inflamed areas in the eyes and brains for infections such as gingivitis and syphilis.


Penicillin is the commonest and oldest medication for the treatment of recalcitrant diseases. Penicillin was first discovered in 1896. In 1928, it was observed to be viable for therapeutic purposes and by 1938; commercial production of penicillin was commenced. Penicillin is used to treat infectious diseases such as gonorrhoea, and Infectious mononucleosis. Today, penicillin antibiotics are used to treat a variety of bacteria-caused diseases. However, just like many antibiotics, various microbes have been observed to build resistance against penicillin. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is an example of such microbes. Nonetheless, researchers have developed stronger versions of penicillin in order to enhance its effectiveness in fighting bacteria-causes diseases and infections.

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