Biotechnology - Penicillin
Biotechnology in Practice 600-205
What is biotechnology?
Biotechnology is the use of technology to construct products or perform tasks through the use of biological systems and organisms.1Through history we have gained more knowledge of how biotechnology is applied and have refined and created new techniques that have benefited different areas, such as agriculture and gene technology. The application of fungal products has been in use for hundreds of years in the production of foods such as cheese and soy products. Penicillium mould (Penicillium chrysogenum2 ) contains the antibiotic substance penicillin, which was successfully isolated in 1945.
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Since Ancient times, moulds have been used to treat infection. Ernest Duchesne was a physician who discovered through experimentation, that Penicillium glaucum was able to destroy the bacteria, Escherichia coli. In his research, Duchesne was able to cure typhoid by injecting a subject with P.glaucum, which was a remarkable achievement. But being an unknown, young student, Duchesne was not acknowledged with this discovery, and was prevented from continuing more research due to army research.3 Later similar discoveries were to be met with little attention until the 1920s.
In 1928, a British bacteriologist Sir Alexander Fleming was studying the effects of Staphylococci, a genus of Gram-positive bacteria. He hypothesised that the mould, Penicillium notatum, was inhibiting bacterial growth by releasing a certain substance, and was able to isolate that antibiotic substance, named penicillin, which affected Gram-positive pathogens such as diphtheria and meningitis.4 Unlike Duchesne’s strain, this was unable to affect. Fleming published these results in a British Journal, which received little notice by the scientific community.
Penicillin was highly unstable at both extremes of pH, and was hard to produce in large quantities. In 1938, Australian pathologist Howard Florey and his team of researchers tried to solve these flaws. The team had used penicillin on patients, but there was a problem in that a large amount of the mould was needed to treat patients.By trying to increase the yield, they found that P.notatum grew best in shallow containers with nutrients, and needed a lot of air. In 1941, Florey tried to coerce interest in some pharmaceutical companies to produce penicillin. These companies could not see much money as the yield of penicillin was still very low. They were referred to the Northern Regional Research Laboratory in Illinois, where a world wide search for different moulds resulted in Penicillum chrysogenum, which was able to produce much higher yields. Through mutagenesis, penicillin production was increased ten fold. Other research groups became more interested, and demand for penicillin became large as its effects were shown. In New York, a process using deep fermentation tanks was discovered, which pumps air through the tanks. When corn steep liquor, a waste product of maize was used as fuel, the yield increased 12-20 times when used with the deep fermentation tanks.5
Since then, penicillin has spawned the production of many derivatives, such as ampicillin and augmentin. Antibiotics have then since come into general use, and the mortality rate of diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis have fallen drastically. Due to a series of scientific discoveries, the way infection has been fought and how medicine is practiced has taken an extreme change.
3 Zinzius J, History of the discovery of penicillin: Ernest Duchesne, Dtsch Med Wochenschr
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
I find this a slightly disappointing piece of work, because it seems to completely deviate from the title. If the rubrik was to write a piece of work about the history of the use of penicillin and the student has just chosen an inappropriate title then this is a middle-of-the-road discussion of the history. But if the title was given as "What is biotechnology" then this piece of work really doesn't answer it. Without knowing that I'd have to give it 2/5 at my Russell Group university.