Chapter 52 : Gerhard Domagk and the Origins of Sulfa

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It seems remarkable that there is little awareness of the impact made by sulfa drugs on the conquest of infectious maladies. A researcher's observations were on dreadful consequences when even the most heroic and apparently successful surgery allowed to invade the incision site and foster foul-smelling, potentially fatal wound infections. The gas gangrene was furiously contagious, capable of killing half of the patients in a postoperative ward within a few weeks and there were other bacterial enemies, too, all contributing to the massive fatality rate even among soldiers who survived the traumas and stresses of battle. The key discovery, that the sulfonamide-containing Prontosil red could control streptococcal infections in mice, came in 1932. With all combatants carrying or having rapid access to the new wonder drugs, death rates from meningococcal meningitis plummeted in World War II compared with those in World War I. No doubt the advent of penicillin, with its potency and the associated publicity, is the principal reason why the story of Gerhard Domagk and the sulfonamides has been painted out of popular histories of the conquest of pathogenic bacteria.

Citation: Dixon B. 2009. Gerhard Domagk and the Origins of Sulfa, p 242-245. In Animalcules. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817442.ch52
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1. Hager, T. 2006. The Demon Under the Microscope. Harmony Books, New York, NY.

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