© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
KTXI 90.1 FM is currently on low power after equipment at our transmitter site suffered winter storm damage.
Science & Technology

Old Penicillin Mold Auctioned For More Than $14,000

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A patch of mold has fetched a pretty penny in London - over $14,000. Now, to be clear, this isn't the black stuff growing in damp corners of the bathroom. It's a dish of perhaps the most important mold in medical history.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALEXANDER FLEMING: Penicillin's made from a mold - pennicillium - hence the name.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

That's the Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming in a recording he made late in life. He discovered penicillin in 1928. A spore of it had dropped onto a dish of Staphylococcus he had left open in his lab. The Staph sample was killed off in a halo around the mold spore. At first, Fleming had trouble convincing other scientists to help him develop penicillin.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FLEMING: The crude penicillin I made in those days was weak and much to impure for injection into the body.

CORNISH: That changed once World War II broke out. Howard Florey and Ernst Chain figured out how to concentrate penicillin into an effective antibiotic, one that saved millions of lives during the war and since. The three shared a Nobel Prize in 1945.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FLEMING: We certainly live in wondrous times. And when penicillin first came to light, neither I nor anyone else had the slightest conception of the enormous influence that it and the later antibiotics would have on medical practice. It is an enormous gratification to have had a hand in this magnificent revolution.

SHAPIRO: Fleming was proud of his creation. He gave away samples of the original mold to celebrities. It was one from a collection put together by his niece that sold yesterday at the auction in London.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEW ORDER SONG, "AGE OF CONSENT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.