Over the years many lists have been published in an effort to rank the most “revolutionary inventions or discoveries in history”, or the “greatest breakthroughs of all time”. Invariably these lists include “penicillin” or “antibiotics”. In fact, a list published by The Atlantic in 2013 listed the discovery of penicillin in 1928 as number three in their article of “The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since the Wheel”.
The discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in St. Mary’s Hospital, London ushered in the modern age of medicine. He is credited with the following quote, “One sometimes finds what one is not looking for. When I woke up just after dawn on Sept. 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I guess that was exactly what I did.”
So why, exactly, was Fleming’s discovery so revolutionary? Prior to the beginning of the 20th century, bacterial infections accounted for the top causes of death in the world. The average life expectancy was just 47 years. Diseases like cholera, pneumonia, tuberculosis were rampant. The antibiotic era revolutionized the treatment of infectious diseases. The average life expectancy rose to 79 years. Antibiotics and other factors like improved sanitation, vaccinations, public health measures, and education are the reasons developed nations such as the United States have seen such a dramatic increase in overall life expectancy and quality of life.
With such impactful consequences to humankind it is easy to see how the discovery of penicillin warrants a top 3 placement in “The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since the Wheel”. We have grown so accustomed to the use of antibiotics that it is hard to imagine a world where once again infectious disease becomes a top killer. By preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, we at JASE Medical are on a mission to provide everyone the opportunity to ensure themselves and their families piece of mind should, one day, a world where antibiotics are in short supply or impossible to obtain becomes a reality.