Alexander Fleming’s mold could not produce penicillin fast enough for mass production; it wasn’t until 15 years later that lab worker ‘Mouldy’ Mary Hunt tested a moldy cantaloupe in a grocery store and discovered the strain that is used to produce all penicillin today

Mouldy Mary and the Cantaloupe

It’s a well known story and example of medical serendipity. Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) a Scottish microbiologist who returned to his laboratory following his summer holiday and found his growth plates of Staphylococcal bacteria had been contaminated with mould. Wherever the mould was growing the bacterial cells had been killed. Antibiotics had been discovered. Except this wasn’t the first antibiotic to be made. Medication with antibacterial action dates back to before the medieval period. When it came to penicillin Fleming’s discovery was only the beginning. And the penicillin still in use today owes much to an unsung hero called Mary and a mouldy cantaloupe.

Fleming surmised that the mould must be making some sort of chemical which … Continue Reading (3 minute read)

15 thoughts on “Alexander Fleming’s mold could not produce penicillin fast enough for mass production; it wasn’t until 15 years later that lab worker ‘Mouldy’ Mary Hunt tested a moldy cantaloupe in a grocery store and discovered the strain that is used to produce all penicillin today”

  1. GrumpyOik

    It was not only the grocery store that links Peoria, Illinois to penicillin. A local microbiologist, Andrew Moyer developed a way of mass producing penicillin using corn syrup. It was this technique, coupled to the “mutated melon” penicillium strain that allowed the allies to produce penicillin in workable quantities during WWII.

  2. AelizaW

    Poor Mary…. what a nickname.

  3. Schamson

    Cantaloupe once again to the rescue! What has trash tier honeydew ever contributed? NOTHING.

  4. _craq_

    The Wikipedia entry on the history of penicillin has a different story: “There is a popular story that Mary K. Hunt (or Mary Hunt Stevens[78]), a staff member of Raper, collected the mould;[79] for which she had been popularised as “Mouldy Mary.”[80][81] But Raper remarked this story as a “folklore” and that the fruit was delivered to the lab by a woman from the Peoria fruit market.[77]”

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_penicillin

  5. kirenaj1971

    My mother would have died in the mid fifties if it hadn’t been for penicillin, so thanks I guess…

  6. umagrandepilinha

    The location of this grocery store? ~~Albert Einstein~~ Peoria, Illinois.

  7. square3481

    Dontatello: “Question: Do you like penicillin on your pizza?”

    *Mikey and Donny hum Taps*

  8. quidditchgalleon

    This leaves out ALOT. Fleming was clever enough to know that in some supermarket shelf somewhere in the world sat the perfect mould strain on some fruit or veg just waiting for mass production. I’m pretty sure he encouraged thousands of people to send in mold samples from whatever they had. Leading to this discovery. Basically, he is the GODFATHER of mold.

  9. Zlatarog

    Penicillin allergenics rise up!

  10. Timely_Succotash_929

    My drunken eyes just read this as Mouldy Hairy C***, I’m going to bed.

  11. strangerdanger84

    Imagine being so smart and awesome…but your name goes down in history as ‘Mouldy’ Mary. Condolences girlfriend. You deserve better.

  12. Chipchow

    So Mary is also a hero who needs recognition, thanks for sharing.

  13. RPBiohazard

    Finally, something good that comes from cantaloupe

Leave a Comment