A look into some of the world changing drugs that were discovered by accident
While scientists will commit years of their lives to discovering the wonder drug that will benefit us today and tomorrow, some of the most useful and powerful drugs will be found through complete serendipity. We look at the drugs stumbled upon by accident that have had a huge effect on the world.
Due to it’s various uses and cures, Penicillin is widely used drug and still plays a huge part in modern medicine, despite being discovered nearly a century ago. It was discovered on the morning of Friday 28th September 1928 in the basement of St. Mary’s Hospital in London by Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming, who noticed that a Petri dish filled with Staphylococcus had been left completely open.
Upon further inspection of the open Petri dish, he noticed a blue-green mould around the bacteria, Staphylococcus, which was suppressing any bacterial growth and lysing it (breaking it down) as well. The accidental wonder is now a modern day cure for nasty diseases today such as Syphilis and Staphylococcus infections.
Smallpox Vaccine :
Smallpox is thankfully a thing of the past but before it’s accidental cure was discovered it was the most deadly contagious disease on the planet. In the 18th century, British scientist Edward Jenner coincidentally overheard a milkmaid say that people who’d contracted the relatively harmless cowpox had never contracted the extremely lethal smallpox.
Like all responsible scientists, Jenner found himself an 8 year old boy whom he gave cowpox before exposing him to the deadly smallpox, thankfully for the 8 year old boy and the human race, the vaccine proved successful and the smallpox virus today is now nearly fully eradicated and 100% treatable.
Viagra is an extremely recent discovery and the drug was initially created to be used as a cardiovascular drug but scientists realized that is was an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction.
As the drug went through thorough testing, they found out it was not working as a heart treatment so they carried on studying the unexpected side effect that was putting lead in the scientists pencils. The FDA approved Viagra as the first oral treatment for men with erectile dysfunction in 1998.
Known as Warfarin and also by it’s brand name of Coumadin, the blood thinning agent has had an interesting history to say the least. It was discovered when farmers realized their cattle were dying from eating a type of clover and they found out an active chemical in the plant was preventing the cattle’s blood from clotting, causing them to hemorrhage.
They then decided to use the active chemical as a rat poison as it was an easy way of killing rats. Then later on, after more research they realized that in correct doses it proved beneficial to people who had blood clotting problems and in 1952 Warfarin was first used as a blood thinning agent for humans.
LSD is one of the most powerful recreational drugs and is known for it’s psychedelic effects on the mind, it’s been used musical masters like The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. It was discovered through chance by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1943 who was looking into the substance for pharmaceutical purposes, he accidentally ingested a small dose of LSD through his finger tips and felt a minor odd sensation.
The next day, in what has gone down in narcotics history as “Bicycle Day”, Hofmann took a 250mg of LSD which he believed to be the threshold amount but he was way off. He experienced sudden, intense changes in his visual and neurological perception which caused him to feel extreme anxiety and he asked his lab assistant to take him home but as it was wartime he could only be taken using a bike.
He begin to feel better and started to enjoy the first ever LSD trip experienced by a human, commenting that it possesses brilliant psychiatric capabilities and he commented saying he could never see it being used recreationally, oh how wrong he was!
It was first used as an oral drug to treat high blood pressure under the trade name Loniten but it was soon discovered to have a very interesting and appealing side effect. The side effect was hair growth or slowing down of hair loss, it meant people suffering from baldness or hair loss were given a lease of life on the tops of their heads.
Administering the treatment will either cause hair growth or darkening of hairs, it was surveyed that on average hair increased by 39 hairs/cm2 in males between 18 and 50 year old. Beware though as Minoxidil is highly toxic to cats and may even cause feline death.
Nitrous Oxide :
The properties of Nitrous Oxide were first fully discovered by British chemist Humphry Davy, it was known for it’s mind altering effects through extreme hilarity and laughter which saw it nicknamed ‘laughing gas’.
When “testing” Nitrous Oxide on his friends, he discovered that Nitrous Oxide considerably dulled the sensation of pain, regardless of the inhalers state of consciousness.It is now used as an anesthetic in the medical profession but it still has recreational uses as a drug and also as engine enhancer for performance racing cars
Mustine is a derivation of the World World Two chemical weapon mustard gas that was used constantly in trench warfare, it is now used as a treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which is a form of cancer spawned from white blood cells. Mustine suppresses the white blood cells and therefore suppressing the cancer.
These properties were discovered by physicians who noticed a large decrease in the white blood cell count of soldiers who were exposed to mustard gas when a cache of mustard gas shells were bombed in Bari, Italy.
Under it’s original, medical name Botulinum was discovered in badly prepared or contaminated meat products causing it to be dubbed “sausage poison” and “fatty poison”. As a bacteria it produces toxins and people eating these infected meat products were poisoned and died from the Botulinum toxicity.
Scientists and bacteriologists then discovered that Botulinum in small doses could be used to treat “crossed eyes”, spasms of eyelids and excessive underarm sweating. Cosmetic benefits of Botox were discovered by Canadian surgeons, Alastair and Jean Carruthers who noticed the softening of frown lines and wrinkles following treatment for eye muscle disorders.
Insulin is the hormone that regulates energy and glucose metabolism, the pancreas is the creator of insulin so people or animals that have diabetes suffer from a pancreatic dysfunction making them unable to produce insulin. It wasn’t until two German doctors removed a pancreas from a dog that they realised how all they these human components connected.
Their motives were to study the digestion process but on inspection of the dog’s pancreas, they noticed an unusual amount of flies attracted by the dog’s urine. They ran further research and tests revealed high levels of sugar in the urine, which is a symptom of diabetes. This helped the doctors to realise the role that a pancreas plays in suffering from diabetes and helped them treat the disease.