Albert Teen
powered by
Albert logo


Deriving Drugs from Nature

Deriving Drugs from Nature

Deriving Drugs from Nature

When the first types of drugs were produced, they came from natural sources, such as microorganisms and plants.

Plants naturally produce chemicals to defend themselves against other organisms. People have learnt that some of these chemicals can help to treat human diseases or relieve their symptoms.

Sir Alexander Fleming discovered an antibiotic from a fungal mould. He was studying a certain bacteria and realised that his plat had been contaminated with this mould. He also realised that the mould had killed the bacteria! Have a guess as to which antibiotic this was.


This diagram shows how the Penicillium mould affects bacterial growth.

Bacteria doesn't like to grow near this mould.


What type of microorganism is the antibiotic penicillin derived from?

A) Bacteria B) Fungus C) Antibody

Answer A, B or C.


So Penicillium mould is a type of fungus.

The fungus naturally produces an antibiotic that destroys bacteria. This is good for the fungus, because out in the real world, the fungus might be competing with bacteria for resources. The antibiotic keeps bacteria away.


Which one of these two statements is correct?

A) "Penicillium" is the antibiotic, and "Penicillin" is the mould. B) "Penicillin" is the antibiotic, and "Penicillium" is the mould.

Answer A or B.


Notice how the name of the fungi is in italics.

This is because it is the genus name of a living organism. It always has a capital letter and is always in italics: Penicillium

Humans use a type of painkiller which is derived from tree bark. Where do you think we get it from?

It was discovered by the ancient Greeks that willow bark could relieve symptoms like fever and pain. The active ingredient is salicylic acid. Which painkiller do you think is derived from salicylic acid?

So, aspirin is a painkiller derived originally from willow tree bark. Today, the active compound, salicylic acid is manufactured into aspirin. Aspirin is a painkiller, so it doesn't cure any diseases, but it helps to give relief from symptoms, like pain.

The heart drug digitalis originates from foxgloves. Do you know what foxgloves are?


These are foxgloves - Digitalis purpurea

They are used to produce a drug people take for heart problems. We call the drug digitalis from the genus name of foxgloves: Digitalis

Today, most drugs are made in pharmaceutical laboratories on a large scale, using a synthetic form of the chemicals present in these organisms.

Which of these are drugs are derived from plants?

You can select multiple answers

Which of these are derived from microorganisms?

You can select multiple answers