Medicine in the pre‐antibiotic era offers lessons still relevant today, particularly regarding the prudent use of valuable medications
The handwritten line on an archived envelope stored in a safe in The Children's Hospital at Westmead undercroft — “The first child in Australia to have ‘Penicillin’ therapy” (Box 1) — understates the remarkable story of how an experimental drug was requested, approved and delivered in secrecy during the Second World War for one child. The “Penicillin Papers”, rediscovered in 2018 by the Heritage Committee of The Children's Hospital at Westmead, highlight important questions of ongoing relevance. The story of the fortuitous discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928 has entered popular consciousness. What is less well known is how penicillin, which dramatically changed the course of medicine, came to be given to patients.
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