Medicine: Half-Forgotten Poison

The first antibiotic ever isolated by Nobel Prizewinner Selman Waksman was actinomycin. And just as Dr. Waksman hoped, the drug made strong medicine. It killed many man-killing microbes; unfortunately, it acted like a mankiller as well. It turned out to be a cytotoxin, a cell poison with the strange selective trick of attacking some cells more than others. So virulent that one milligram could kill a large chicken, actinomycin seemed far too dangerous ever to try on humans. Last week in Rome, pleasantly surprised, Dr. Waksman told the International Congress of Microbiology that...

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