Medicine and Pharmaceutical Drugs

Medicine has changed over the past 150 years and has caused people to reevaluate how sicknesses are treated and what really causes people to get sick.

Because of amazing doctors and scientists, people are able to get treated and to live even when they are infected by bacteria or viruses.

There have been many medical breakthroughs over the years that have helped people to live better and healthier lives.

There are many scientists throughout time that have changed the way that we see diseases such as Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch and Joseph Lister.

Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur helped us to understand how diseases spread. He had a theory called “spontaneous generation” where he believed that microbes could form from nonliving matter.

Even though this wasn’t true, he experimented and learned how to keep germs from growing.

He formed pasteurization which is when milk and wine are boiled to kill germs and sealed to keep new germs from forming.

Louis Pasteur’s work helped to encourage other scientists to study germs and to find out exactly what causes contagious diseases.

Louis Pasteur, through his work, even helped to come up with vaccines for diseases such as rabies, diphtheria, anthrax, chicken pox, and cholera.

Joseph Lister

Joseph Lister is another important scientist and surgeon. During the 19th Century, surgeons were good at doing their work, but oftentimes when they would do surgery the correct way, patients would still die a few days later.

The cause of death was usually some type of inflammation around the surgery cut and no one knew why this was happening and believed it was a chemical reaction to cut from the oxygen.

Joseph Lister believed that the inflammation was not caused by air but by a particle and when he heard about Louis Pasteur’s research, he began to believe that the inflammation was caused by germs in the air.

Lister realized he needed to figure out how to get rid of the inflammation and he would clean the wounds, but people still died. He finally used a chemical called carbolic acid, which was used to treat sewage, and amazingly, the patients stopped getting infections.

It was because of Lister that antiseptics, which are chemicals that are used to kill germs, began being used in surgical rooms.

Robert Koch

Robert Koch worked off the ideas of Joseph Lister, believing that things needed to be clean in order to help keep infection from killing the patients.

He believed that it was important to make sure that the surgical tables and the surgical tools were clean, and he found that using steam to clean the room seemed to help keep the germs down and to keep infection from killing people.

Stopping Disease

Scientists all over the world were looking for ways to stop diseases. One way was through quarantine, which means separating the sick people from people that were well.

Another way to stop the spreading of diseases was by controlling the vectors, or an organism that carries germs that affect people.

One type of vector is the mosquito, where before 1895, people thought that malaria was spread through bad air, but they later learned, through biologist, Ronald Ross, that a small parasite, or an organism that lives off another organism, was causing the disease.


The first working antibiotic was discovered by Alexander Fleming who was a biologist. He accidently found it when he was trying to find ways to fight bacteria.

One day, he left a culture dish and it molded. One of his scientist friends noticed that on the culture dish that bacteria wasn’t forming, and the mold made penicillin.

Penicillin was an amazing drug because it was cheap to make, and it helped to treat many diseases and infections. Many people are alive today because of penicillin.

Antibiotics are the main source of medicines that help to fight diseases. Antibiotics are a class of drugs that are used to kill germs, mostly bacteria.

Antibiotics come in different forms from shots, to pills and even liquid that can be swallowed so that it goes into the body.

There are even forms of lotion that are antibiotic lotions that can be used to help heal wounds or cuts.

Antibiotics come in different types and forms and each antibiotic is used to kill certain germs or bacteria.

Sulfa Drugs

Another type of drug that was researched was a sulfa drug. Sulfa drugs help to fight bacteria by stopping them from forming a chemical that they need in order to reproduce.

The sulfa drugs worked against some infections but did not work for others.

Bacteriophage Therapy

Bacteriophages are viruses that are used to kill bacteria that are harmful to the body.

Doctors would give a shot of bacteriophages to someone that was sick, and the bacteriophage would kill certain bacteria. The problem was that the treatments only worked on a few bacteria.


Another way to fight against diseases is through vaccines. Vaccines are different from antibiotics because they work by making the immune system fight off germs.

When the germ is injected into the blood stream, there are antibodies, cells, that fight the germ.

Vaccines usually contain a form of the disease so that the body knows what to fight.

One of the first vaccinations was variolation, it was used to stop smallpox which was causing many people to die.

The first person to discover a vaccine was Edward Jenner, a doctor, wo found that smallpox and cowpox were similar, and he vaccinated a boy that had cowpox and the boy did not catch smallpox even when he was exposed to it.

One of the most successful vaccinations was the polio vaccine. It was invented by Dr. Jonas Salk and it helped to fight the disease of polio which made people unable to walk.

Facts About Medicine and Pharmaceutical Drugs

  • Intrinsic diseases are caused by germs that are already inside the body.
  • Mumps and rubella are diseases that have vaccines.
  • Some vaccines only require one shot while others require more than one.
  • Some antibodies take time to fight germs and the germs can do a lot of damage during that time.
  • The immune system helps to fight off diseases in the body.
  • Some people are allergic to antibiotics.
  • Washing hands can help people not spread diseases.

What Did You Learn?

  • Who believed that microbes could form from nonliving matter? Louis Pasteur believed that microbes could form from things that are nonliving. He later learned that this idea was wrong.
  • What did Lister realize was happening to surgery patients? Lister realized that surgery patients were getting infections from their surgery and this was what was killing them.
  • Why are antibiotics important? Antibiotics are important because they help kill germs that form from bacteria.
  • What is a way to fight diseases where the body is injected with a germ? Vaccinations are a way to fight diseases when the body is injected with a germ.
  • What helps to fight off infections? Our immune system helps to fight off infections by stopping the germ that is in the body.