Penicillin is used to treat infections that are caused by bacteria; generally, infections treated with penicillin are caused by Gram-positive organisms, according to Medical News Today. Penicillin can also be used to treat a range of infections, including strep throat, tonsillitis and scarlet fever as stated by WebMD.
Penicillin is sometimes also prescribed to treat infection following tooth extraction. It may be prescribed for treating middle ear infection caused by the bacterium S. pneumoniae or Streptococcus. Upper respiratory infections caused by Pneumococcus or Streptococcus, skin infections from Staphylococcus Aureau and rheumatic fever are also sometimes treated with penicillin, according to WebMD.
Penicillin was first discovered in the late 19th century by medical student Ernest Duchesne, but Alexander Fleming is widely attributed to the discovery of penicillin in 1928 when he noticed that Staphylococcus bacteria contaminated with Penicillium fungi, or mold, died. The mold created a bacteria-destroying substance that Fleming later named penicillin, according to Medical News Today.
Penicillins were among the first drugs in the fight against syphilis. Many types of bacteria in modern times are now resistant to penicillin. Still, the drug is used not just for fighting off bacterial infections, but also to prevent infection in patients with weakened immune systems. There are different penicillin types on today's market, including ampicillin, amoxicillin, phenoxymethylpenicillin and flucloxacillin.