Add to collection
  • + Create new collection
  • Alexander Fleming at his laboratory in London, 1943.
    Rights: Public domain Published 20 June 2023 Size: 3.9 MB Referencing Hub media

    Before Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, infections could lead to death, and common diseases such as pneumonia were fatal. During the First World War, one-third of soldiers died from infection or disease.

    Penicillin – the first modern antibiotic – was discovered in 1928. The 1940s–1960s are considered ‘the golden age’ of antibiotics due to multiple antibiotic discoveries. However, soon after their discovery, bacteria started developing resistance, and the effectiveness of many antibiotics was reduced or even lost.

    To compound this further, new antibiotic discovery has fallen away, meaning if we don’t use antibiotics carefully to reduce antibiotic resistance we may return to an age where infections are not readily treated and surgeries, including open-heart surgery or hip replacements, may be too dangerous to undertake.

    The following resources provide information about the history of antibiotic discovery and resistance development.



    Image: Professor Alexander Fleming, who first discovered the mould Penicillium notatum, at his laboratory in London (1943).

        Go to full glossary
        Download all