A Brief Romance with Magic Bullets: René Dubos at the Dawn of the Antibiotic Era

Jill E. Cooper

in Silent Victories

Published in print December 2006 | ISBN: 9780195150698
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199865185 | DOI:
 A Brief Romance with Magic Bullets: René Dubos at the Dawn of the Antibiotic Era

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In 1939, René Dubos announced his discovery of tyrothricin, the first clinically useful antibiotic. Convinced of the power and efficiency of chemotherapeutic wonder drugs, Dubos abandoned his immunological approach to infectious disease in favor of one that privileged cure over prevention. But by 1941 his enthusiasm waned in light of tyrothricin's limitations, and he changed from champion to critic of chemotherapeutic agents. His admonitions against the overzealous use of antibiotics, however, went largely unheeded. As a result, many of his predictions regarding the danger of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains have been realized in modern medicine. This chapter traces Dubos' research at the Rockefeller Institute that led to the discovery of tryothricin, and his rapid disaffection with over-reliance upon antibiotics.

Keywords: René Jules Dubos; antibiotics; tyrothricin; Rockefeller Institute; microbiology; New Jersey Agricultural Station; Oswald T. Avery; Selman Waksman

Chapter.  8223 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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