T h e P a s s a i c H e r a l d - N e w s : N o v e m b e r 2 , 1 9 6 5
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Streptomycin: Great Boon, Sad Story
The item from Rutgers which reported that the patent for streptomycin expired a few weeks ago "almost unnoticed" emphasized the importance of this antibiotic in the fight against tuberculosis.
The dread which tuberculosis once inspired Is beyond comprehension today. It was the great killer, taking rich and poor alike. Its victims wasted away, coughing their lives into pathetically blood-stained handkerchiefs. The depth of popular interest in tuberculosis - or consumption, as it was called - may be gauged from the announcement of the Passaic Daily News a half-century ago this month that it had arranged to start publishing a series of articles on tuberculosis - 70 articles in all!
Streptomycin was a decisive breakthrough in the fight against tuberculosis. "Any individual with tuberculosis now has an excellent chance of recovery and may lead a long and largely unhampered life, especially if the disease has been diagnosed promptly," said the Rutgers article.
Without question, streptomycin was a gift for which the university merits the world's gratitude. This being so, it, is unfortunate that the university saw fit only to mention Dr. Selman Waksman in connection with streptomycin's discovery. Dr. Waksman was the pioneering scientist who inspired and directed the search which found streptomycin during World War II. For this, Dr. Waksman was properly rewarded with a Nobel Prize.
However, the history of streptomycin is incomplete without the name of the man whose dogged search actually turned up the antibiotic. He is Dr. Albert Schatz, whose home was in Passaic and who was working under Dr. Waksman at Rutgers. He is recognized as a co-discoverer of streptomycin. A bitter disagreement with university officials led to Dr. Schatz's departure and to the policy of ignoring the stubborn fact that he was the one who found streptomycin. Even great institutions may be guilty of pettiness.
However, this unpleasant episode cannot take anything away from the magnificent discovery that streptomycin was. It has saved countless lives and prevented untold human sorrow and suffering.