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The First Use of An Antibiotic in America

Hugh A. Carithers, MD
Am J Dis Child. 1974;128(2):207-211. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1974.02110270081016.
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The use of a sulfonamide compound in Germany in 1933 heralded the beginning of the antibiotic era in medicine. Two years later it was first used in America, and for pediatricians this event is especially poignant, since the patient receiving the drug was a child in a famous pediatric hospital being cared for by distinguished pediatricians, one of whom personally gave the first injection. This event has been recognized,1,2 but the full story has never been told.

One can hardly overestimate the impact of the introduction of the sulfonamides on not only the mortality, but also the morbidity, of infectious diseases. A few years after their introduction, Perrin Long, MD, coauthor of a book on these compounds, wrote the following3:

The death rate from pneumonia has been more than halved; meningococcal meningitis, which formerly had a mortality rate of at least 40%, now kills less than 10% of


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