22 The Mold That Saved Millions 1928 FROM ORDINARY MOLD! proclaimed the ad in the August 14, 1944, issue of LIFE. The Greatest Healing Agent of This War! As infection fighters, molds had been used for 2,500 years, although their effects were unpredictable, puzzling and sometimes toxic. Until 1928, that is, when Scottish physician Alexander Fleming noticed that a small amount of mold growing on a staphylococcus culture had destroyed the bacteria. He later named an extract of the mold penicillin. It wasn't until the early 1940s, after other scientists had refined the potent antibiotic, that drug companies began mass-producing it. Fleming's chance discovery revolutionized the treatment of infections previously considered incurable--pneumonia, rheumatic and scarlet fevers, syphilis, tetanus, gangrene. But penicillin's "miracle" status led to overuse. Recently, invulnerable classes of "superbugs" have sprung up--a phenomenon Fleming warned of in 1945.