Researchers have sequenced the genome of Alexander Fleming’s penicillin mould for the first time and compared it to later versions.
Alexander Fleming famously discovered the first antibiotic, penicillin, in 1928 while working at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, which is now part of Imperial College London. The antibiotic was produced by a mould in the genus Penicillium that accidentally started growing in a Petri dish.
Now, researchers from Imperial College London, CABI and the University of Oxford have sequenced the genome of Fleming’s original Penicillium strain using samples that were frozen alive more than fifty years ago.
The team also used the new genome to compare Fleming’s mould with two strains of Penicillium from the US that are used to produce the antibiotic on an industrial scale. The results, published today in Scientific Reports, reveal that the UK and US strains use slightly different methods to produce penicillin, potentially