History and Development of Chemotherapy

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Chapter: Medicinal Chemistry : History and Development of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the treatment of systemic disease or infection with appropriate drugs, which are capable to produce retardation in multiplication of microorganism or to suppress their growth without affecting the host system.


History and Development of Chemotherapy

INTRODUCTION

Chemotherapy is the treatment of systemic disease or infection with appropriate drugs, which are capable to produce retardation in multiplication of microorganism or to suppress their growth without affecting the host system. The word chemotherapy is applicable for the treatment of infection due to viral, bacterial, fungal, and protozoal infections. Antibiotics are substances produced by microorganisms, which selectively suppress the growth and proliferation or kill other microorganisms at very low concentration. As the analogues of the antibiotic products are produced semisynthetically they are also called as chemotherapeutic agents.

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

There are three phases to explain the history of chemotherapy, such as empirical period, Ehrlich’s phase, and the modern phase. In early empirical period of 16th century, Paracelsus used mercury for the treatment of syphilis and during 17th century cinchona bark was used for pyrexia. In 500 to 600 BC, molded curd of soybean was used in Chinese folk medicine for infection and wounds. In early period, during these phases, Hindus used chaulmoogra oil for the treatment of leprosy. In Ehrlich’s phase, it was revealed that certain dyes produced toxicity and killed some microorganisms. So neoarsphenamine was developed by Ehrlich for the treatment of syphilis. The word antibiosis was coined after the killing of anthrax bacilli when grown in culture media with other bacteria during the 18th century. The modern phases demonstrated the therapeutic effect of prontosil (a sulphonamide) in pyrogenic infections in 19th century.

In 1929, Sir Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered the antibacterial properties of penicillin by destroying the staphylococcus in culture plate; this is broadly cited in modern antibiotic era. Chain and Florey followed up this observation in 1939 and later penicillin was clinically used during 1941. In 1942, Waksman proposed the search of actinomycetes and discovered streptomycin in 1944. Later, the advance in medicinal chemistry produced synthetic and semisynthetic agents.

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