Antibiotic is a type of drug produced by tiny plants called microorganism. Most of the microorganism that produce medically useful antibiotic are molds and bacteria that live in the soil. Antibiotics are sometimes called wonder drugs or miracle drugs because of their wonderful power to destroy disease germs quickly, or to stop germs from growing. Antibiotics rank among the most important of all life saving drugs today. They serve as the doctor's best weapons against pneumonia, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, syphilis, scarlet fever, bone infections, dysentery, and many other serious diseases. Hundreds of different antibiotics have been discovered, but most of them have proved unsuitable for medical use. Some antibiotics are not active enough against disease germs. Some work well in test types, but quit working when taken into the human body. Most of them are toxic (poisonous) to the human body when taken internally. Important antibiotics which have been found medically useful are: penicillin;, streptomycin, erythromycin, and polymyxin. At first, only small amounts of antibiotics could be produced at one time. But, within a few years, scientists and engineers learned how to produce these life-saving drugs in huge amounts. Today, many large factories are used for the manufacture of antibiotics, both in
and in many foreign countries. The molds or bacteria are grown free of all other microorganisms in large closed tanks, ranging in size from 5000 to 30,000 gallons capacity. Sterile (germ free) air is forced into the tanks, or fermenters. It seldom takes more than three days to complete a fermentation. Once the fermentation is complete, the antibiotic is concentrated and purified. It is carefully tested for sterility, purity, and nontoxicity, to make sure it meets standards set by the Antibiotics Division of the Federal Food and Drug Administration. The production of antibiotics is a very large business in the . Mass production has reduced the cost of antibiotics.