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Streptomycin Only Beginning of Discoveries
Dr. Waksman Predicts Further Discovery of Medical Weapons
WASHINGTON (AP) – Dr. Selman A. Waksman, co-discoverer of streptomycin, a drug obtained from an organism in soil, today envisioned a broader fight on unconquered diseases with still undiscovered medicinal weapons derived from microbes.
Asserting that penicillin likewise was derived from soil microbes-specifically from a mold fungus-Waksman, of Rutgers University, declared:
"The discovery of streptomycin, following that of penicillin, points up the possibility of isolating from micro-organisms new agents that have the capacity of combating diseases that could not be controlled previously."
"These new agents," he told the National Academy of Sciences in a paper prepared for the opening of its annual meeting, "open broad horizons for the chemist, who can learn a great deal from the microbe in an attempt to synthesize new compounds that offer chemotherapeutic potentialities."
While declaring that it was possible for germs to build up a resistance to "antibiotic" materials like streptomycin and penicillin, Waksman predicted:
"As certain organisms develop resistance to a given antibiotic, new substances or chemical derivatives of old compounds will become available to take the place of the old ones."
Stating that streptomycin is active against bacteria that are resistant to both the sulfa drugs and penicillin, Waksman said the drug, unlike penicillin, could not be destroyed by certain bacteria.
"So far," he said, "no organism has as yet been isolated capable of destroying streptomycin!"
On the other hand, he said, It is definitely known that penicillin has no toxic (poisonous) effects on the body, whereas the toxicological properties of streptomycin have not yet been fully determined. So far, he said, it appears to be "one of the safest chemotherapeutic agents yet known."