The 92-Year-Mold That Produced Penicillin, The First Antibiotic, Is Back In The Lab!

The unexpected discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928, when mold affected one of his Petri dishes, shaped modern medicine, with antibiotics being crucial in fighting many diseases over the past century.

Scientists have woken up Fleming’s Penicillium mold and sequenced its genome for the first time in history.

They believe that the information they obtained might help fight off antibiotic resistance.

Tim Barraclough, a professor of the Department of Life Sciences from the Imperial College London and the Department of Zoology at Oxford University, stated:

“Remarkably after all this time spent in the freezer, it grows back fairly readily. It is fairly easy, you just break it out of that tube and put it on a petri dish plate and away it goes.”

“We realized, to our surprise, that no one had sequenced the genome of this original Penicillium, despite its historical significance to the field,” he added.

Fleming’s original sample from nearly a century ago is kept inside a wooden box.

The scientists discovered penicillin in 1928 while working at St. Mary’s Hospital Med School, currently part of Imperial College London.

The researchers regrew Fleming’s Penicillium from a CABI frozen sample.

CABI is home to 30,000 strains of microorganisms, one of the most impressive collections.

The scientists then extracted the DNA for sequencing. The mold was stored inside a freezer since 1945.

That is not the first time scientists regrew Fleming’s original Penicillium. One year ago, Penicillium fundus developed from the original strain was used during an educational world tour to China and India.

Barraclough’s team compared Fleming’s strain to current strains used in producing antibiotics in hopes of observing the differences that have evolved naturally over time to improve antibiotic production.

“It might give us some suggestions for how we could try and improve our use or the design of antibiotics for combating bacteria,” he added.

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