Antibiotics: not a monopoly of modern medication

Introduction to bacteria was merely 120 years ago, perhaps this was the first empirical evidence of sub-small living organism that can cause disease. Since then, research in microbiology flourished. Officially the term of antibiotics was established in 1928, marked by penicillin. Next to it, streptomycin and chloromycin were added to antibiotics medication.

However, concept of antibiotics is not an alien knowledge to ancient civilization. Recently, proof of antibiotics, extracted from Streptomyces, has been found in ancient Nubians (Sudanese). During that period, auereomycin (named after golden circular bacterium of Streptomyces on medium) was vastly used to cure illness. Traces of presently called streptomycin were detected in bones of kids and adults of Nubians by mass spectrometry (see: brief communication).

Similar to Nubian, ancient societies were hypothesized to consume antibiotics through drinks, alcoholic beverages, and herbal concoction. Healers of Egyptians, Chinese, and Greeks were recorded to prescribe antibiotic concoction, some of them are still widely in use until present day. Aminoglycosidase, a group of antibiotics, has also been used for quite some time (see: review).

Update 13/12/10:

There is significant improvement in antibiotics page in wikipedia since I wrote this article, more specificly on the introduction part and history of antibiotics. The history certainly becomes clearer and past works are now increasingly recognized and respected. It could be interesting to add recent papers (1, 2, 3, 4, etc) on antibiotics in Google timeline feature search. From there it could be concluded that antibiotics inventions evolved time to time.


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