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Book and Media Reviews
April 4, 2007

The First Miracle Drugs: How the Sulfa Drugs Transformed Medicine

JAMA. 2007;297(13):1494-1497. doi:10.1001/jama.297.13.1494

On December 4, 1935, the daughter of Gerhard Domagk sustained a life-threatening injury:

The child wounded herself on December 4 1935 with a needle as she was occupied with a piece of Christmas handicraft. She came down the stairs with the needle in her right hand to have her mother thread it, so that when she fell, the large needle, eye first, went into the hand up to the wrist bone and broke off. A half hour later in the clinic the child was x-rayed and the needle was removed. The next day she had a rising temperature. . . .When the dressing was changed a few days later there was marked swelling of the hand, and despite removal of all the stitches the fever continued to rise rapidly. In spite of numerous incisions the inflammation phlegmon extended to the under-arm. A serious worsening of the general condition and dizziness occurred, so that we were gravely worried about the child. Since further surgical intervention was not possible, I asked permission of the treating surgeon to use Prontosil, after I had established by culture that streptococci were the cause of the illness.

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