The Unnecessary Synthesis of Prontosil

Today we take antibiotics very much for granted and face a serious problem with the emergence of widespread bacterial antibiotic resistance as a consequence of their inappropriate use.  In the years before 1935, bacterial infections were a deadly and an ever-present risk with people routinely dying after very minor scratches or cuts that became infected.  This all changed following Gerhard Domagk’s research on Prontosil, which became the first commercially available antibiotic. In its time, Prontosil was seen very much as miracle drug since after taking it patients who were near-death were revived and became healthy again within hours. Penicillin is often credited as the first antibiotic, but in fact Prontosil had been used to effectively treat bacterial infections for nearly a decade prior to the availability of penicillin became available. Dogmak’s work thus helped to save the lives of many millions. This process deliberately trivialises the synthesis of what was once a valuable wonder-drug and asks us to imagine a future where today’s life-saving antibiotics will be ineffective and similarly be put to inconsequential use.

In these videos two precursors, are mixed together and the bright red/orange antibiotic Prontosil forms at the interface.

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