Monday, June 25, 2007

Streptomycin - Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian

Ever wondered about the origin of streptomycin in this country?

Dr Carole Reeves Outreach Historian with the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London has just interviewed a woman who was one of the first to receive streptomycin in Craig-y-nos.
She says:

" I was able to tell her that in 1948 she was almost certainly on the MRC controlled trial for streptomycin. The post-war British Government only had enough resources to buy a small batch of streptomycin from America so had to make a decision as to who received it. The recipients were randomly selected - hence the first ever randomly controlled clinical drug trial. Some, like Barbara, received it, whilst others received a placebo. I told her about this - she had no idea (although she has a small picture of Selman Waksman, the discoverer of streptomycin, which she brought back from the US years ago), and I think felt relieved that it wasn't her fault she survived. I told her that, in fact, there was a huge black market for the drug. George Orwell, who was in a sanatorium in Scotland (Scotland wasn't included in the drug trial) obtained black market streptomycin but had such bad side effects that he stopped taking it. He gave the remains of his supply to treat two women who survived although of course he died.

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