Antibiotics: From the Beginning to the Future: Part 1

  • Nancy KhardoriEmail author
  • Cecilia Stevaux
  • Kathryn Ripley
Review Article


The first written record of intervention against what later came to be known as an infectious disease was in the early seventeenth century by a Buddhist nun. She dried 3 to 4 wk old scabs from patients with mild smallpox and asked well people to inhale the powder. More than a century later in 1796, Edward Jenner described vaccination against smallpox by using cowpox that later was found to be caused by cowpox virus which is non-pathogenic for humans. Another century later in 1890, Robert Koch published the Koch’s Postulates allowing the study of pathogenic bacteria and subsequently the study of agents to fight them. The first chemical cure for disease was reported by Paul Erhlich in 1909 in the form of an arsenic compound to treat syphilis. One hundred and ten years since then a lot has happened in the area of preventing and treating infectious diseases with significant contribution to increase in human lifespan. This is the only area of medicine in which treatment (antimicrobial agent) is used to eradicate a replicating biological agent inside the human host. The potential of this second biological agent to mutate under the selection pressure of antibiotics making them resistant was recognized in the 1940s. But the indiscriminate use of antibiotics for over 70 y has led to the present crisis of resistance in major pathogens with increased morbidity and mortality. In this review, we have incorporated all the possible avenues that might be useful in the future. However, none is more important than relearning the judicious use of antibiotics based on microbiology, pharmacology, and genetics.


Antibiotics Resistance Antibiotic stewardship Bacteriophages Antimicrobial peptides 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest



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Copyright information

© Dr. K C Chaudhuri Foundation 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy Khardori
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cecilia Stevaux
    • 1
  • Kathryn Ripley
    • 1
  1. 1.Infectious DiseasesSolid Organ Transplant Program at Sentara Norfolk General HospitalNorfolkUSA

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