Making penicillin

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Making penicillin

Post by andygates » Tue Nov 25, 2008 6:18 pm

This is a thought-experiment in producing homebrew antibiotics. Say we're 5 years into the PAW: The antibiotic you stored are now out of date, you've got a decent little homestead going, with some electricity, clean water, and enough stability to do a bit of science.

Challenges:

Finding a strain of penicillium that has good antibiotic properties.
Growing enough of it to be useful.
Extracting the penicillin and storing it without degradation.
Safe dosing.

The first one's mostly luck: you need to try lots of sources until you get the good stuff. Historically, the good stuff was on a melon from Peoria. You'd test by growing plates of bacteria and... swabbing half with a dip of mold broth, doing a culture count. The mold is endemic in soil, so try that too.

Growing it: our mold grows fastest at room temperature. "Corn-steep liquid" was used in the wartime work, and we know the mold likes bread and fruit, so a starchy, room-temperature broth ought to do it.

Extraction, storage and dosing: I run out of brain here. Penicillin is quite fragile, so no harsh extraction techniques. Filter off the juice and air-dry it?
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by spacecase0 » Tue Nov 25, 2008 6:23 pm

I thought that the old style penicillin stopped working on any bacteria that people have many years ago,
and that they are on to new things.

I think that the real trick to it is to have a microscope,
be able to culture the bacteria that you want to kill,
then try things on that bacteria till you get something that works well,
that way you don't have to test on a living person.
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by rpc » Tue Nov 25, 2008 6:46 pm

Let's face it. There are some things that laypersons can't do at home. You can't build an automobile from iron ore at home. You can't do brain surgery at home. And you can't manufacture antibiotics at home.

Certain things require very specialized labor and equipment. And to have specialized labor and equipment, you need some sort of functioning economy.

If all you have is iron ore, and no economy, then you won't be able to manufacture an automobile. And unfortuantely, if you need brain surgery or antibiotics and will die without them, then you will simply die in the absence of a functioning economy.

If you, as an educated layperson, believe that someone has need of brain surgery and/or antibiotics, and there is nobody around who is trained to do brain surgery and/or manufacture antibiotics, then your best course of action is to practice what is known as "benign neglect". The patient might recover on his own. That is less likely if you start feeding him mold, no matter how well intentioned.

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Re: Making penicillin

Post by Squirrley » Tue Nov 25, 2008 7:08 pm

I respectfully disagree, kind of. Not knowing how penicillin is actually produced by these methods, I'm talking out of my ass, officially. However, antibiotics are one of the biggest advances in medical science, and if its possible to do this like andygates is asking, I think its very much worth looking into. Sure, there's probably plenty of things out there that wouldn't be affected by the home-brew penicillin, or not as much as by a modern variety, or some other modern antibacterial, but it could still be a very valuable help. I don't fancy dying from a scraped knuckle, and even some weak antibiotic can help. Its a bit different than brain surgery.
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by TheGunslinger » Tue Nov 25, 2008 7:10 pm

Wouldn't you be able to find the strain of penicillum you want from exisiting stuff? I.e, culture it from tablets you already have?
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by spacecase0 » Tue Nov 25, 2008 7:14 pm

I do all kind of things in my home that people say are not possible or a really bad idea,
but if you look in to something first,
it is not that hard to do almost anything.
building light bulbs and an x ray machine is my next project.

an economy would really help with that sort of thing, but I don't think that it is absolutely required.
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by ZMace » Tue Nov 25, 2008 7:16 pm

Nope, your tablets will be penicillin (a compound), not penicillium (the fungi that produces said compound). You might be able to isolate a similar strain, but would not be able to get from commerical antibiotics to the organism that makes them. (unless quality controll really messed up.)
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by meperson » Tue Nov 25, 2008 7:38 pm

I have actually been thinking about this lately, i also think it would definately be a beneficial thing to be able to accomplish. Seeing as how our modern homes would contain many things that a late 1800's lab might have, i would bet that with some trial and error it could be accomplished. This would be a very good question for some medical lab tech if anyone knows any.
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by Browning 35 » Tue Nov 25, 2008 7:47 pm

Well I was interested in the topic enough to look it up and this is what I found.

How do you make antibiotic tablets?
Q :How do you make antibiotic tablets?

At first glance the lay-person may think that making antibiotics is a simple task, after all penicillin comes from bread mold or fruit mold (it is actually in a liquid secreted by the mold rather than the mold itself).

However, antibiotics are VERY complex molecules to make and CAN NOT be manufactured at home. It took years for nobel prize winning chemists to figure out how to make quantities of penicillin, so I don't think you'll have much luck: sorry! Penicillin, for instance, takes a lot of post mold manufacturing and processing to refine it and remove any impurities.

If you want to know how tablets are made in general then that's pretty easy (most pharmacists are trained even if they never make them anymore). You start with the 'drug' you want to have as the main ingredient and then you add this to various compounds such as magnesium carbonate or calcium carbonate or common talc as bulkers, then add stabilizers, preservatives and colours etc. After that is done you can cold-press them or hot-press (metal presses that have tablet shaped negative dies) them depending on the ingredients used and the properties of melting in the GI tract that you want. A drug may be bound to other molecules that release it more slowly or else aids it's absorbtion into the blood stream. Finally you may coat the tablets with enteric coatings, colours, glycerin and the like to allow for smoother swallowing or else alter the release time or release location (most drugs are better released (tablet disolves) in the intestines rather than the stomach (many drugs can't pass the stomach lining or else are destroyed by the stomach's hydrochloric acid (btw, stomach acid is NOT sulpuric acid [aka, battery acid] as many people seem to think it is)

Hope this helps!

Fr33kman, MD
That said though there are several herbs and home remedies which might have some of the same properties though.

55 Best Herbal Remedies

Homemade Medicine


They're not as good as antibiotics, but they're better than nothing and they're what people used for thousands of years before modern medicine. Herbs such as plantain, comfrey, elderberries, salal even sheep sorrel and yarrow also prevent infections.


Sulfonamide (Medicine)

Sulfonamide (Sulfa) which exists kind of a nether world in between herbal remedies and modern antibiotics is also supposed to be much easier to make than modern antibiotics. You'll remember the GI medic in Saving Private Ryan sprinking a white powder on a wound before bandaging it? That's Sulfa. If It existed in the early 1900's up to when Penicillin became available it can't be that hard to make.
Preparation
Sulfonamides are prepared by the reaction of a sulfonyl chloride with ammonia or an amine. Certain sulfonamides (sulfadiazine or sulfamethoxazole) are sometimes mixed with the drug trimethoprim, which acts against dihydrofolate reductase. It is also known as Sulfa Powder. It received widespread use in the treatment of wounds during the Second World War.
Plus out of date antibiotics can often still be used, the dosage sometimes just has to be adjusted. Many times out of date drugs are shipped off to the 3rd World as charity or as a tax write off, they still work (for the most part), but the patient just has to be given a higher dosage.
Last edited by Browning 35 on Tue Nov 25, 2008 8:06 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by ZMace » Tue Nov 25, 2008 7:53 pm

I did some digging and after googleing extensively, I can not even find a place you can order Penicillium chrysogenum (the orginal source for Alexender Flemming) spores. Most sites want to sell you 'Shrooms (note the difference from mushrooms) and a few sites on keeping your pot plants healthy :roll: . Im sure that it would be possible, but fairly difficult to produce home antibiotics.
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by rhi » Tue Nov 25, 2008 8:54 pm

Not to mention, you'd have to isolate the active ingredient from all the other natural substances that the mold produces, many of which could be very toxic. The simplest way would be through something like TLC, but even that isn't really accessible without some type of rudimentary lab facilities.

In a true PAW scenario, realistically I think it would come down to being knowledgeable about what to liberate from the local pharmacy and stockpiling as much as possible.
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by Bubba Enfield » Wed Nov 26, 2008 12:01 am

spacecase0 wrote:I do all kind of things in my home that people say are not possible or a really bad idea
Someone should totally sig that.
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by Trent » Wed Nov 26, 2008 12:45 am

Penicillin is almost entirely useless now due to overuse of antibiotic prescriptions and the mass dumping of it in livestock feed. In a PA world, keep your wounds clean, rubbing alcohol is your friend, and save what antibiotics you have left for life and death situations.

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Re: Making penicillin

Post by Space Jockey » Wed Nov 26, 2008 3:15 am

When I took Chemistry in college our class once made aspirin from several different chemical compounds, and the precipitate was basically aspirin. The only problem was that it was so unrefined that it would have caused some pretty serious bleeding in the intestines of anyone who actually tried taking it. And this was at a college campus with all the necessary materials needed to produce the aspirin in the first place. The refining techniques needed to make it safe for human consumption weren't available at the college campus. I'll say that maybe you can find some penicillium bacteria somewhere, or even be able to create it, but I highly doubt you'll be able to refine it enough for human use. You're talking about taking an unrefined bacteria and introducing it into your gut. I don't even want to think of the bad things that can happen, and I'm a nurse. And that's not even considering the fact that you'd have no way to calculate dosages. FYI the penicillium bacteria used to culture certain kinds of cheeses have such negligible antibiotic properties that even if you were able to refine it, it wouldn't fight off any infection you had. I.E. worthless.

Idea = bad

Wouldn't it suck to survive the PAW, then die because you wanted to experiment with eating fungus?
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by URBAN ASSAULT » Wed Nov 26, 2008 9:49 am

Who says you can't do brain surgery at home?

Evidence shows that ancient peoples routinely cut holes in human skulls(Trepanning) for medical and religious purposes, and the subjects sometimes survived.

Here is a link to the information...http://library.thinkquest.org/J0111742/Trepanning.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Remember, these were primitive peoples who had no real knowledge of bacteria, sterilizing techniques, blood flow, access to modern drugs, or online databases, and STILL some of the people who had this done to them recovered.

Imagine what a lay brain surgeon could accomplish today with some Black & Decker power tools, Google search, and a big bottle of rubbing alcohol :shock: :lol: ?

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Re: Making penicillin

Post by Wolfdude87 » Wed Nov 26, 2008 12:56 pm

Listen, if any of us are lucky enough to survive whatever it is that causes the end of the world then we'll be able to aquire medication we don't have with enough effort.
Space Jockey wrote:Wouldn't it suck to survive the PAW, then die because you wanted to experiment with eating fungus?
Perfectly put.

Lets put it like this. Everyone here has mad food stored up. Crank flashlights, radios, ammo, all kinds of great PAW stuff. If you run out of meds and need more, you can always trade for some with other survivors.
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by andygates » Wed Nov 26, 2008 2:00 pm

Not once they're out of date. Antibiotics don't last forever.

Browning35, your source is wrong. Modern antibiotics are synthesized because it's the best way: huge volume, purity, cheapness, it's just great. But before the synthetic process was perfected, it was done by extracting penicillin from cultures of penicillium mold.

Space Jockey, never eaten moldy bread or fruit by mistake? Mold isn't instant death.

(And for homebrew aspirin, make willowbark tea. It contains a close-cousin to aspirin (salicylin instead of acetylsalycilic acid) and works a charm -- it eased years of my re-enactor's hangovers. 8)

We're not doing so great on extraction. I'm going to have to unearth some biochem buddies...
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by sheddi » Wed Nov 26, 2008 2:49 pm

andygates wrote:We're not doing so great on extraction. I'm going to have to unearth some biochem buddies...
It's roughly 20 years since I did any organic chemistry, but I still recall the basics of fractional crystallisation and solvent extraction. And I've got a copy of Fessenden & Fessenden (an earlier edition than that one!) here somewhere.

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Re: Making penicillin

Post by Space Jockey » Wed Nov 26, 2008 4:49 pm

andygates wrote:Space Jockey, never eaten moldy bread or fruit by mistake? Mold isn't instant death.
I have not, I wash my fruit and look at my food before I eat it so I know there's no mold, bugs, feces, etc. on it. It's probably not instant death, but why take that chance?
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by Fried Gold » Wed Nov 26, 2008 7:54 pm

I think Trent is on the right path. Means to prevent infection are much more available than to treat infection.

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Re: Making penicillin

Post by Ellie With An Axe » Wed Nov 26, 2008 8:45 pm

Space Jockey wrote:
andygates wrote:Space Jockey, never eaten moldy bread or fruit by mistake? Mold isn't instant death.
I have not, I wash my fruit and look at my food before I eat it so I know there's no mold, bugs, feces, etc. on it. It's probably not instant death, but why take that chance?
Sooo... what happens if you grab that loaf of moldy bread and take a big ol' bite out of it? Any medicinal properties or just playing with fire? Or a bit of both?

I can't have penicillin, or sulfa.

I can't imagine a world without antibiotics, but it's a world my family survived through all the generations it took to put me here, so I guess people will continue to survive if there are no more antibiotics. However, like the generations it took to discover antibiotics, I'm sure our time without the miracle drug would be short, unless the PAW is so catastrophic that civilization isn't actually rebuilding with time, but continuing to die out (like an enormous comet impact).

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Re: Making penicillin

Post by Impus » Wed Nov 26, 2008 10:39 pm

Wow. I'm seeing a lot of "you can't do it" comments posted all over the boards these days. Did we just attract a bunch of people with negativity issues? Maybe YOU can't smelt ore, refine it, and hand-machine it into a basic internal combustion engine, but I'm purty durn sure I can. Maybe YOU can't live off the land for an indefinite period of time, but I know I can. As for penicillin, I don't know, never tried. But I'd like to hear the opinions of the folks who are willing to give thinking it through a shot (pardon the pun) as opposed to those who dismiss the idea out of hand.
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by Space Jockey » Wed Nov 26, 2008 11:00 pm

Impus wrote:Wow. I'm seeing a lot of "you can't do it" comments posted all over the boards these days. Did we just attract a bunch of people with negativity issues? Maybe YOU can't smelt ore, refine it, and hand-machine it into a basic internal combustion engine, but I'm purty durn sure I can. Maybe YOU can't live off the land for an indefinite period of time, but I know I can. As for penicillin, I don't know, never tried. But I'd like to hear the opinions of the folks who are willing to give thinking it through a shot (pardon the pun) as opposed to those who dismiss the idea out of hand.
It's not so much a can vs. can't topic as much as it is a wise vs. unwise topic.
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Re: Making penicillin

Post by Browning 35 » Thu Nov 27, 2008 9:17 am

andygates wrote:Not once they're out of date. Antibiotics don't last forever.

Browning35, your source is wrong. Modern antibiotics are synthesized because it's the best way: huge volume, purity, cheapness, it's just great. But before the synthetic process was perfected, it was done by extracting penicillin from cultures of penicillium mold.
When did I ever say that they lasted forever?

I just said that they'll work for awhile past the expiration date (which they will).
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