Staphylococcus aureus – biography of a bug sometimes super, most often not

Public history of science lecture by Professor Hugh Pennington CBE

MRSA Scanning electron micrograph of a human neutrophil ingesting MRSA (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Event details

Hugh Pennington CBE is Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen.

Thirty percent of us carry Staphylococcus aureus up our noses. Boils and infections after surgery bring it to our attention. Mutant clones are called MRStaphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA. All these things make it important today. 

Attempts in the past to fight Staphylococcus aureus and understand it have led to major discoveries. Nearly 150 years ago it was effectively challenged for the first time by Joseph Lister and his carbolic. It was given its name by the Professor of Greek at Aberdeen University, and was one of the few bacterial species harmful to humans to be described in Britain rather than in Germany during the golden age of bacteriological discovery at the end of the nineteenth century. Aureus refers to its golden colour, and Alexander Fleming’s research to understand this better led to the discovery of penicillin. It evolves in real time, and so we have not finished with it as a significant adversary. This lecture will tell its story. 

This lecture forms part of a series from the Royal College of Pathologists which explores a History of Pathology in 50 Objects: www.rcpath.org.

Attending this event

This event is free to attend and open to all. No tickets are required. Doors open at 12.30pm and seats will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

We have a limited number of spaces for wheelchair users and ten bookable seats for people with impaired mobility who are unable to queue. To book in advance, please contact the events team. Further information about accessibility is available.

Recorded audio will be available on this page a few days after the event.

Staphylococcus aureus – biography of a bug sometimes super, most often not 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK

Events coming up

  • The interaction of fire and mankind 14 September 2015 at The Royal Society, London Scientific discussion meeting organised by Professor Andrew Scott, Professor William Chaloner FRS, Professor Claire Belcher and Dr Chris Roos
  • The interaction of fire and mankind - further discussion 16 September 2015 at The Royal Society at Chicheley Hall, home of the Kavli Royal Society International Centre, Buckinghamshire Scientific discussion meeting organised by Professor Andrew Scott, Professor William Chaloner FRS, Dr Claire Belcher and Professor Chris Roos
  • Open House Weekend 2015 19 September 2015 at The Royal Society, London The Royal Society's building will be open to the public on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September 2015.

For more events please see the events diary.

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