Antimicrobial Drugs: Chronicle of a twentieth century medical triumph

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Between 1935 and 1944 the field of microbiology, and by implication medicine as a whole, underwent dramatic advancement. The discovery of the extraordinary antibacterial properties of sulphonamides, penicillin, and streptomycin triggered a frantic hunt for more antimicrobial drugs that was to yield an abundant harvest in a very short space of time. By the early 1960s more than 50 antibacterial agents were available to the prescribing physician and, largely by a process of chemical modification of existing compounds, that number has more than tripled today. We have become so used to the ready availability of these relatively safe and highly effective 'miracle drugs' that it is now hard to grasp how they transformed the treatment of infection.

This book documents the progress made from the first tentative search for an elusive 'chemotherapy' of infection in the early days of the twentieth century, to the development of effective antiviral agents for the management of HIV as the millennium drew to a close. It also offers a celebration of the individuals and groups that made this miracle happen, as well as examining the inexorable rise of the global pharmaceutical industry, and, most intriguingly, the essential input of luck.

Infection still maintains a high profile in both medicine and the media, with the current threats of 'superbugs' such as MRSA acquired in hospital, and a potential resistance to antibiotics. This book tracks the history of antimicrobial drugs, a remarkable medical triumph that has provided doctors with an amazing armoury of safe and effective drugs that ensure that reversion to the helpless state of the fight against infection witnessed in the early 1900s is extremely unlikely. This timely compendium acknowledges the agents that have surely led to the relief of more human and animal suffering than any other class of drugs in the history of medical endeavour.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Enterprises such as this book require huge efforts from the author and pay great dividends to the loyal reader. For the origins of such drugs as avlosulphon and zanamivir, and many in between, this volume is a thorough and entertaining introduction."—British Medical Journal

"...offers a fascinating account. The book has been written with great care and each chapter is extensively referenced...will be of interest to all lecturers, researchers, students, and drug company employees engaged in antibiotic-related teaching and work. Every library should have a copy!"—Society for General Microbiology

"...accurate and well balanced...I urge all pharmacists to read this book..."—Peter taylor, Professor of Micriobiology, School of Pharmacy, London in The Pharmaceutical Journal

"This is an elegant and comprehensive history of the antibiotic era....I commend it to anyone, specialist or not, who is interesed in antibiotics or the history of medicine."—D.M. Livermore, Health Protection Agency, London, UK in Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199534845
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/22/2008
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 9.80 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Professor Greenwood was formerly at St Batholomew's Hospital, London before joining the Department of Microbiology at the University of Nottingham Medical School in 1974, where he remained until retirement in 2000. He was Professor of Antimicrobial Science between 1989 and 2000, and is the former Archivist to the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. He has contributed more than 200 scientific articles and books on antimicrobial agents over 40 years.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements     xiii
Personalia     xv
Agents of infection     1
Evolving insights     1
Bacteria     4
Viruses     9
Fungi     13
Protozoa     14
Worms     16
References     21
Out of darkness     23
Combating infection before the twentieth century     23
Remedies against intestinal worms     29
Quinine     31
Emetine     40
References     44
From quinine to sulphonamides (by way of Serendip)     47
Cinchona bark and willow bark     47
From quinine to aniline dyes     49
Ehrlich and the foundation of chemotherapy     52
From dyes to sulphonamides     65
References     79
Wonder drugs     85
Penicillin     85
Cephalosporins     113
[beta]-Lactam abundance     119
References     136
The taming of tuberculosis and leprosy     141
Fighting tuberculosis without drugs     142
Antituberculosis agents     145
Antileprosy agents     188
References     202
The golden years of pills and profits     209
The post-war bonanza     209
Antibiotics     212
Synthetic antibacterial agents     248
The Party's over?     262
References     263
Progress against parasites     269
Antiprotozoal agents     271
Anthelminthic agents     318
Shortcomings and challenges     336
References     337
The poor relations: fungi and viruses     345
Antifungal agents     346
Antiviral agents     362
References     386
The spectre at the feast     393
The problem of resistance     394
Understanding the problem     401
Tackling the problem     407
Envoi     410
References     411
Drug register     415
Subject index     423
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