Learning About Sulfa Drugs’ History

Sulfonamide is the term used to refer to any of the drugs belonging to the group of synthetic antibiotics that contain sulfanilamide molecular structure. This serves as the basis for several drug groups. Allergies to it are quite common. Hence, it is best to know learn a little more about sulfa drugs history before actually trying any of them.

The value of sulfa drug revolves around its capacity to effectively deal with infections, both bacterial and fungal by nature. Its effects on the latter though are quite limited since it works on certain fungal infections only. Despite their proven affectivity, there are possibilities of negative results from interaction with other over-the-counter and prescription drugs, so it is always recommended to ask for professional advice before getting it on with this medication.

Basically, this drug functions by killing the fungi and bacteria. More specifically, the drug interferes with their metabolism. It is most functional in the urine before it is excreted, so it is most effective as treatment for urinary tract infections. The drug was considered to be the wonder drugs in time when penicillin was not yet around.

It was actually sulfonamide that brought about the start of the antibiotic revolution in the field of medicine. They were the very first antimicrobial drugs, and everyone has been freely making use of them even without a complete understanding about how they deal with infections.

Sulfa drugs’ history goes quite a long way back. The very first one came out with the trade name Prontosil. This was a prodrug, which means that the drug is inactive or in a less active form when administered. Once taken in, it becomes active once it is broken down inside the body. This is usually through the metabolization process.

A number of experiments took place starting in the year 1932 at the Bayer AG laboratories. Bayer at that time was still a component of IG Farben, a large chemical trust of German origin. The team working on these experiments was powered with the belief that coal-tar dyes have the ability to attach to parasites and bacteria, which can then be used in targeting harmful organisms within the human body.

After working on dyes after dyes for years, the team led by Gerhard Domagk, a physician and researcher, found the answer in a ready dye which was synthesized by chemist Josef Klarer, who was also with Bayer at that time. The said dye was found to have significant effects on putting a stop to the bacterial infections in a group of mice.

Bayer named the drug Protonsil. It was the first medication that was able to treat a range of various bacterial infections in the human body. In fact, it can provide a high level of protection against a range of various infection types caused by streptococci. These include child bed fever, blood infections and erysipelas. Its ability to treat infections caused by other kinds of cocci though is a little low.

Years after that, an accidental discovery was made by a French team led by Ernest Fourneau. It was about how the said drug was actually metabolized into two separate pieces within the human body. The inactive portion released a colorless, smaller compound named sulfanilamide. Different variations of the sulfa drug was introduced into the market several years after that. It was made available for everyone.

A sulfa craze took place as more and more manufacturers started to produce thousands and thousands of different forms of sulfa. In the fall of 1937, the Elixir Sulfanilamide disaster took place due to the absence of any testing requirements. As a result, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was passed in 1938. Since it was the only proven to be effective antibiotic at that time, sulfa was highly popular across age, social classes and other determining factors even until the first few years of the Second World War. Victims of the war benefited greatly from the drug including famous people like Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The soldiers during the war were even given medical kits that contain this drug with instructions to sprinkle them on wounds especially in cases when ample medical attention was not available.

Over the years, a large quantity of medications containing the sulfanilamide structure was created, resulting to better formulas and less toxicity in the long run. Knowing about the sulfa drugs history is a good way to start a research about this medication. This can prove to be useful as well in determining the overall value and effectiveness of the said drug.

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