Timeline of key events in antimicrobial resistance

Barnes, the son of a butcher, was a chemist and businessman who in 1902, together with Herman Hille, devised the formula for Argyrol, a topical antimicrobial agent that contains silver and a protein extracted from wheat. The two scientists set up the company Barnes and Hille to market the compound, which they developed while employed by the pharmaceutical company H. K. Mulford. Promoted for use in a wide range of products, including eye-drops, nasal sprays and suppositories for conditions affecting the genitourinary tract, Argyrol gained widespread popularity around the world. By 1907 Argyrol sales had reached $250,000 and Barnes had become a millionaire. Argyrol dominated the topical ophthalmic antimicrobial market until the rise of sulphonamides in the 1930s. 1872-01-02T00:00:00+0000Duggar was an American botanist who is best known for his discovery of chlortetracycline (Aureomycin), the first of a number of tetracycline antibiotics. In 1943, at the age of 74, he managed to isolate the organism that produced the antibiotic Auremycin while experimenting with field soil samples. Introduced into the market in 1948, Auremycin paved the way to the development of new generations of antibiotics. Known nationally as an exceptional plant pathologist, Duggar wrote three key horticulture textbooks and taught at several well-respected institutions including Harvard, Radcliffe, and Cornell universities.1872-09-01T00:00:00+0000d'Herelle was a microbiologist who co-discovered bacteriophages (phages), viruses that infect bacteria that are now major tools in biotechnology. He isolated the first phage from chicken faeces in 1919. Following this, he successfully treated chickens infected with typhus with the phage and in August 1919 cured a patient with dysentery using the same method. This laid the basis for the development of phage therapy. 1873-04-25T00:00:00+0000Fleming was a biologist and microbiologist. He first made his mark through his discovery of lysosyme in 1923. This is an enzyme produced in the tears, saliva, mucus and human milk which is an important part of the immune system. Today he is best known for having found penicillin, a mould subsequently developed as the first antibiotic drug to treat bacterial diseases. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1945 for this discovery.1881-08-06T00:00:00+0000A physician and bacteriologist, in 1935 Colebrook demonstrated that Prontosil, one of the first antibacterial drugs, was an effective treatment for puerperal sepsis caused by streptococcal bacteria, an infection that killed many women in childbirth. His work dramatically reduced the number of women dying in childbirth and marked a major turning point in antimicrobial chemotherapy and the rise of sulphomides. He also made breakthroughs in burn care by using antisepsis treatment for burn wound infections and pushing for the establishment of burn units in hospitals.1883-03-02T00:00:00+0000A biochemist and microbiologist, Waksman is renowned for coining the term 'antibiotic'. He was responsible for the discovery of streptomycin. This was the first antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis. Waksman was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1952 for this work. He went on to discover twenty other antibiotics, including actinomycin, clavacin, streptothricin, grisein, neomycin, fradicin, candicidin, candidin, and others1888-07-22T00:00:00+0000Mahoney was a physician who is famous for pioneering the use of penicillin for the treatment of syphilis. He began experiments with the drug for the treatment of syphilis in 1943 in patients at Terre Haute Prison. Following the success of these experiments he moved on to testing the drug among citizens in Guatemala. Penicillin was then tested in 1400 patients in different hospitals. Mahoney conducted the study of the drug at Staten Island Marine Hospital. Penicillin was introduced by the United States as a standard treatment for syphilis in 1944. 1889-08-01T00:00:00+0000Domagk was a German pathologist, physician and bacteriologist. He is best known for having found sulphonamide to be an effective drug against bacterial infections. The molecule had originally been synthesised by chemists at the German company Bayer in 1908. Domagk discovered the antibacterial properties of the drug through preliminary tests in mice in 1931. Soon after this he successfully treated his own daughter struck down by a severe streptococcal infection. His work paved the way to the widespread adoption of sulphonamide drugs, the first commercially available antibiotics, in the late 1930s to treat infections caused by streptococci, including blood infections, childbirth fever, and erysipelas. Domagk was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1939 but the Nazi regime forced him to refuse it, with the Gestapo putting him under arrest for a week. He finally received the Nobel Prize in 1947. 1895-10-30T00:00:00+0000Hinshelwood was a physical chemist who shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1956 for helping to work out chemical reaction rates and reaction mechanisms. He subsequently did a lot of work on how environmental conditions affected the growth of bacterial cells. His findings on the relationship between the environment and chemical changes inside bacteria cells provided an important pathway to understanding the mechanisms behind bacterial resistance to antibiotics. 1897-06-19T00:00:00+0000Florey was an Australian pharmacologist and pathologist. In 1941 he helped carry out the first clinical trials with penicillin which were undertaken at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford. Florey and his team pioneered the first large-scale production of penicillin. In 1945 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in recognition of his work. 1898-09-24T00:00:00+0000Alexander was a paediatrician and microbiologist. In the 1940s she developed the first effective treatment against Haemophilus influenzae (Hib), a major killer of infants. Her treatment helped reduce mortality from the disease from nearly 100 per cent to less than 25 per cent. It involved the combination of antiserum therapy with sulfa drugs. Alexander was also one of the first scientists to identify and study antibiotics resistance, which emerged out of her search for antibiotics to treat Hib. She worked out that the resistance was due to random genetic mutations in DNA that were positively selected through evolution. 1901-04-05T00:00:00+0000Chain was a Jewish biochemist who sought refuge in England from the Nazis in 1933. In the late 1930s he helped determine the therapeutic action of penicillin and that it could cure bacterial infections. He also managed to isolate the substance by freeze-drying the mold broth and worked out its chemical composition. His work enabled the large-scale production of the compound. In 1945 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on penicillin. Aside from penicillin, Chain was involved in the development of fermentation techniques for the isolation of other biologically important molecules, including other antibiotics.1906-06-19T00:00:00+0000Folkers was a biochemist who is best known for his role in the isolation of vitamin B12, which was inspired by the discovery it could help in the treatment of pernicious anaemia. This he did in the late 1940s while working in the research laboratories of Merck and Co. Folkers and his team at Merck went on to discover mevalonic acid, which plays a key role in the production of numerous important biochemical compounds, including carotenoids, steroids, and terpenes. They also isolated the two antibiotics: cathomycin and cyclorserine. 1906-09-01T00:00:00+0000Also known as arsphenamine, or compound 606, Salvarsan was synthesised by Alfred Bertheim in Paul Ehrlich's laboratory. 1907-01-01T00:00:00+0000Known originally as 606, Salvarsan was an organic arsenic compound. It was the first compound to be tried out by the German scientist Paul Ehrlich in his search for chemotherapy. Ehrlich injected 606 into the rabbits together with Sahachiro Hata, a Japanese scientist. Within a day the two scientists noticed that the drug had killed Treponema pallidum, the bacteria that causes syphilis. Following the tests in rabbits, the drug was successfully tested out in patients with syphilis. The results marked the first time that a specific drug could treat a disease caused by a microorganism. Salvarsan was the first ever antibacterial agent to be developed and the first effective treatment for syphilis. 1909-08-31T00:00:00+0000The drug was marketed by Hoechst AG1910-01-01T00:00:00+0000Hobby was a microbiologist whose work was pivotal to scaling up the production of penicillin in World War II and the development of other antibiotics. She first became involved in work on nonpathogenic organisms when doing her doctorate at Columbia University in 1935. From 1934 to 1943 Hobby worked for Presbyterian Hospital and the Columbia Medical School. Thereafter she went to work for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in New York where she conducted research on streptomycin and other antibiotics. She founded the monthly publication 'Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy' in 1972 and published 'Penicillin: Meeting the Challenge' in 1985. 1910-11-19T00:00:00+0000Sheehan was an American organic chemist. He is best known for having developed the first synthetic penicillin. It took him 9 years to develop the method. His breakthrough laid the foundation for the development of customised forms of antibiotics to treat specific bacteria. He is also associated with the development of ampicillin, a semi-synthetic penicillin that can be taken orally instead of by injection. 1915-09-23T00:00:00+0000Datta was a microbial geneticist who showed that multi-antibiotic resistance was transferred between bacteria by plasmids. She first made the connection in 1959 after investigating a severe outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium phage-type 27 at Hammersmith Hospital where she worked. This involved an examination of 309 cultures, of which she found 25 were drug resistant, eight of which were resistant to Streptomycin which had been used to treat the patients. She concluded that the antibiotic resistance developed over time because the earlier cultures of the salmonella typhimurium infection (from the start of the outbreak) were not drug resistant. 1922-09-17T00:00:00+0000Lederberg is best known for having discovered the lambda phage, an indispensable tool for studying gene regulation and genetic recombination. She also invented the replica plating technique which is pivotal to tracking antibiotic resistance. 1922-12-18T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places
2 Jan 1872Albert C. Barnes was born in Philadelphia, PA, USABarnes 
1 Sep 1872Benjamin M Duggar was born in Gallion, Hale County, Alabama, USADuggarUniversity of Wisconsin, Lederle Laboratories
25 Apr 1873Felix d'Herelle was born in Montreal, Canadad'HerellePasteur Institute
6 Aug 1881Alexander Fleming was bornFlemingLondon University
2 Mar 1883Leonard Colebrook was born in Guildford, United KingdomLeonard ColebrookSt Mary's Hospital, Charlotte's Hospital
22 Jul 1888Selman A Waksman was born in Priluka (now Pryluky), Russian Empire (now Ukraine)WaksmanRutgers University
1 Aug 1889John F Mahoney was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, USA Mahoney 
30 Oct 1895Gerhard Domagk was born in Lagow, GermanyDomagkMunster University
19 Jun 1897Cyril N Hinshelwood was born in London, UKHinshelwoodOxford University, Imperial College London
24 Sep 1898Howard W Florey was born in Adelaide, AustraliaFloreyOxford University
5 Apr 1901Hattie Elizabeth Alexander was born in New York City, USAAlexanderColumbia University
19 Jun 1906Ernst B Chain was born in Berlin, GermanyChainOxford University, Imperial College
1 Sep 1906Karl A Folkers was born in Decatur, Illinois, USAFolkersMerck & Co
1907Salvarsan synthesisedBertheim 
31 Aug 1909First injections of Salvarsan into rabbits to test out its efficacy in treating syphilisEhrlich, Hata 
1910Salvasan introduced for treating syphilis and trypanosomiasis 
19 Nov 1910Gladys Lounsbury Hobby was bornHobbyColumbia University, Pfizer
23 Sep 1915John C Sheehan was born in Battle Creek, MI, USASheehanMassachusetts Institute of Technology
17 Sep 1922Naomi Datta was born in London, UKDattaHammersmith Hospital
18 Dec 1922Esther Lederberg was born in Bronx, New York, USAEsther LederbergWisconsin University

2 Jan 1872

Albert C. Barnes was born in Philadelphia, PA, USA

1 Sep 1872

Benjamin M Duggar was born in Gallion, Hale County, Alabama, USA

25 Apr 1873

Felix d'Herelle was born in Montreal, Canada

6 Aug 1881

Alexander Fleming was born

2 Mar 1883

Leonard Colebrook was born in Guildford, United Kingdom

22 Jul 1888

Selman A Waksman was born in Priluka (now Pryluky), Russian Empire (now Ukraine)

1 Aug 1889

John F Mahoney was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, USA

30 Oct 1895

Gerhard Domagk was born in Lagow, Germany

19 Jun 1897

Cyril N Hinshelwood was born in London, UK

24 Sep 1898

Howard W Florey was born in Adelaide, Australia

5 Apr 1901

Hattie Elizabeth Alexander was born in New York City, USA

19 Jun 1906

Ernst B Chain was born in Berlin, Germany

1 Sep 1906

Karl A Folkers was born in Decatur, Illinois, USA


Salvarsan synthesised

31 Aug 1909

First injections of Salvarsan into rabbits to test out its efficacy in treating syphilis


Salvasan introduced for treating syphilis and trypanosomiasis

19 Nov 1910

Gladys Lounsbury Hobby was born

23 Sep 1915

John C Sheehan was born in Battle Creek, MI, USA

17 Sep 1922

Naomi Datta was born in London, UK

18 Dec 1922

Esther Lederberg was born in Bronx, New York, USA

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