In 1945, Ernst Boris Chain and Howard Florey shared the Nobel prize in Medicine with Alexander Fleming for their work in stabilizing penicillin, leading to the first mass-produced antibiotic. The antibiotic revolution rewrote the structures of the modern world – millions of lives were saved, life expectancy doubled over the 20th century and populations aged. Mass killers like tuberculosis were brought under control and the door to new surgical treatments were opened. Antibiotics enabled an epidemiologic transition from an “age of pestilence” to the current “age of degenerative diseases” – at least in most of the developed world.
Beta-lactams still hold a significant place against the bacterial infections at low cost with low side effects