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Penicillin powder, England, 1942

Penicillin was isolated in 1940 by an Oxford University team led by Howard Florey (1898-1968). At first the scientists managed to produce only very small quantities of impure product – the characteristic bright yellow colour of the early penicillin was caused by an impurity. Patients had to endure painful in-jections – usually into a buttock – every three hours because the body proc-essed the drug so quickly. This powder was intended for use in early clinical trials, which proved the effectiveness of penicillin as an antibiotic.

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    Glossary: penicillin

    The first antibiotic drug to treat infections which is made from the mould penicillium. Its discovery is attributed to Alexander Fleming in 1928.

    Glossary: antibiotic

    A substance that is used to treat infections.