Preventing death by dyeing

I just learned today that the pharmaceutical industry grew out of the research conducted for synthesizing dyes for the textile industry.

Paul Ehrlich, a medical student who noticed how dyes stain tissues differently, believed the chemical reaction between dye and tissue could be modified to make the dye lethal to infectious micro-organisms while not harming surrounding tissue – the ‘magic-bullet’ of chemotherapy. In 1907 this led Ehrlich to discovering the curative properties of the dye Trypan Red I, as a remedy for syphilis.

In 1935, the daughter of Gerhard Domagk, a doctor employed by German dye manufacturer I. G. Farbenindustrie, contracted a streptococcal infection from a pin prick. As her infection worsened, her father decided to give her an oral dose of a dye called Pronstil that had shown in research to inhibit the growth of streptococci in mice. The girl recovered and the modern era of chemotherapy was born.

4 thoughts on “Preventing death by dyeing

  1. Speaking of learning by dyeing, I learned (from Spike Milligan’s hilarious memoirs of life in the army) that there was a frequently sought medical treatment called Blue Unction (2% solution of mercuric chloride mixed with alcohol and water). Why was this solution so frequently requested by soldiers? It was an efficacious treatment of pubic lice … or crabs, as they are known in the vernacular. You can never really be sure with Spike Milligan so I looked this up in an online nautical dictionary, and indeed, there was Blue Unction, accompanied by the following poem:

    Blue unction has only one function:
    It’s used for the killing of crabs
    Which some calls the mechanised dandruff
    And others the Sandy McNabs.

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