The prescient words of Alexander Fleming, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 1945 for his seredipitous discovery of the antibiotic, Penicillin, are worth a mention when it comes to discussing the wise aphorisms around antimicrobial resistance. In an interview given to The New York Times in 1945, he notes that:
‘…the public will demand [the drug and]…then will begin an era…of abuses. The microbes are educated to resist penicillin and a host of penicillin-fast organisms is bred out which can be passed to other individuals and perhaps from there to others until they reach someone who gets a septicemia or a pneumonia which penicillin cannot save. In such a case the thoughtless person playing with penicillin treatment is morally responsible for the death of the man who finally succumbs to infection with the penicillin-resistant organism. I hope the evil can be averted.’
In course of his Nobel Lecture, delivered on 11th December, 1945, Fleming further noted:
“It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them, and the same thing has occasionally happened in the human body.”
According to reports, in 1946, merely three years after the sensational discovery of the wonder drug penicillin, as many as 14% of the isolates of Staphylococcus aureus from patients in a London-based hospital were reported to have developed resistance.