Penicillin breaking the mould
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Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Alice…
And I’m Neil. [rattles a bottle of pills]
What have you got there, Neil?
Antibiotics. I had a blister on my big toe, and it got infected. My whole toe swelled up like a balloon! The swelling has gone down now with these little wonder drugs. Look, I’ll show you.
No, Neil. Please keep your socks on. Thank you. Now, the subject of today’s show is penicillin, which was one of the first antibiotics to be discovered. So, Neil, can you tell me how many lives penicillin has saved since its first use as a medicine in 1942? Is it…
a) 20 million?
b) 200 million?
Or c) 2 billion?
Well, I’ll say b) 200 million. That sounds like a good number.
OK, well, we’ll see if you’re right or wrong later on in the show. Now, penicillin is a common antibiotic – or substance that kills microorganisms – that acts very effectively against certain bacteria. And it was discovered in 1928 by a Scottish scientist called Alexander Fleming who noticed some mould growing on a petri dish of bacteria in his lab, which had a halo – or circle – around it where no bacteria were growing.