Thursday, April 17, 2008

Streptomycin - Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian

Barbara Pye ...had stretomycin in 1947

It has become apparent that many people knew little about the treatment they received as children or the nature of the drugs.

In co-authoring "The Children of Craig-y-nos" book Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach medical historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, will fill in these missing gaps.

Here's a taster for those who have wondered about streptromycin, the first ever life saving drug for TB.

"Streptomycin wasn't available anywhere until 1946, having been discovered by an American soil biologist, Selman Waksman, in 1943. The drug was very expensive and the British government were unable to import much of it into the country. I believe the bulk amount was 50 kg. As a result, there was only enough to treat a few patients with tuberculosis so the Medical Research Council devised a fair trial whereby some patients received streptomycin and bed-rest whilst another group received bed-rest only. Bed-rest being the standard treatment for TB.

One hundred and seven patients were enrolled into the trial - 55 received streptomycin (the treated group) and 52 received bed-rest only (the control group). The trial began in January 1947. This means that officially, nobody in Britain received the antibiotic before that date. Since there was a black market for streptomycin, some wealthy individuals may have been able to import it from America, but not those in a government-funded sanatorium."

We know that Barbara Pye received it in Craig-y-nos in 1947. It is believed she was part of that initial trial.

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