Penicillin for the Warsaw Uprising
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Oddział Anestezjologii i Intensywnej Terapii, Szpital Śląski w Cieszynie, Polska
Submission date: 2023-01-23
Final revision date: 2023-02-21
Acceptance date: 2023-02-22
Publication date: 2023-09-30
Corresponding author
Aleksander Rutkiewicz   

Oddział Anestezjologii i Intensywnej Terapii, Szpital Śląski w Cieszynie, Bielska 4, 43-400, Cieszyn, Polska
LW 2023;101(3):216–225
Introduction and aim: Penicillin was the first antibiotic introduced into a medicine. The process on its isolation, obtaining in a stable form, implementation into production and introduction into medicine, which were carried out in Oxford by Howard Florey’s team, coincided with the outbreak of World War II. In the first half of 1944, the drug was sent to the front hospitals in larger quantities. It was also received by the 2nd Polish Corps fighting in Italy. In the existing literature, there were indications that after the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, penicillin was transferred to the fighting city. The main objective of the article was to answer the question whether antibiotics actually flew to the Polish capital on board Allied planes. Material and methods: The author conducted a query in the London archives: The Polish Underground Movement (1939-1945) Study Trust and The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum. Results: An secret message sent from Italy to the a commander of the Home Army – General Taduesz Komorowski, contained an information that Penicillin is in a package onboard Liberator plane of Polish 1586th Special Duty Flight flying to Warsaw at night 10/11 September 1944. In another document containing a list of medical material sent to Warsaw between 1st August and 15th September1944, 4.5 million units of sodium salt and 191,000 units of calcium salt of penicillin were listed. The document contains an annotation that the antibiotic was a gift of the 2nd Polish Corps, and the fact of its transfer to the insurgents should remain secret from the British authorieties. Conclusions: The collected archival material allows to confirm that penicillin was among the drugs and medical material transferred to Warsaw. However, it has not been found at this stage of research whether penicillin reached Warsaw and has been used to treat wounded insugrents or civillians. In the face of the tragedy that befell the city’s population, the amount of medicine sent was symbolic, and even if the entire declared supply arrived, it would only be enough for a handful of wounded.