Wednesday, February 3, 2021


It has been known in the international scientific community since 1947, but the general public is mostly unaware, that the young Italian physician Vincenzo Tiberio discovered the antibacterial power of molds in 1895 (read:, more than thirty years before the famous Alexander Fleming.

Dr. Tiberio was the first to discover something fundamental for the health of Humankind: the antibiotics.
Vincenzo Tiberio was the real discoverer of Penicillin. He found out antimicrobial effect produced by some moulds, thirty-four years before Alexander Fleming, observing a well situated in family's house.L.B (History medicine database)

To divulge this truth for the first time, with documents that dispel any doubt, is the feature film 'Vincenzo Tiberio, the man who discovered antibiotics', made by 'Imago Film' and directed by Claudio Rossi Massimi. The DVD is free (only shipping costs are required) and to get it, just write to:" "

History of the Dr. Tiberio's discovery

Vincenzo Tiberio was a brilliant Italian doctor and biochemist who was also a medical officer of the Italian Royal Navy.

He was born in Sepino (a small city of Molise in central Italy) on May first, 1869 and after brilliant classical studies he enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine at the Royal University of Napoli.

Even before graduating, he passionately devoted himself to microbiological research in the field of Hygiene and Microbiology which he continued throughout his life (until his death, when was only 45 years old).

In the last decade of the 19th century when Tiberio attended the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery in Napoli, this Athenaeum was not only a place of education, but also and above all of research, especially in the bacteriological field. At that time, in fact, Professor Eugenio Fazio published a work on the vital competition between the bacteria of putrefaction and those of anthrax and typhus and Professor Arnaldo Cantani was experimenting with a therapy for tuberculosis, applying Louis Pasteur's principle of antagonism, and obtaining interesting results.

In this environment, Tiberio, still a student in Medicine, began to attend the Hygiene laboratories, to verify some of his intuitions. In the courtyard of the house in Arzano, where he lived, there was a cistern for rainwater which was also used for drinking. On the edge of the cistern, molds grew which were, for obvious hygienic reasons, periodically eliminated. Soon, Tiberio noticed that when the molds were not there, gastrointestinal infections occurred in the water users, while when there were the use of water was harmless. He sensed a connection between the presence of molds and the growth of pathogenic bacteria for the human organism. Subjected this intuition to experimental verification....and so Tiberio was able to demonstrate how the therapeutic action of molds was linked to some substances present in them. He also succeeded in isolating some of these substances and experimenting with their beneficial effect up to the preparation of a substance with antibiotic effects.

In 1895, in the scientific journal "Annals of Experimental Hygiene of the University of Rome", he published an article with the title "On the extracts of some molds" as an account of his work in which he identified for the first time the bactericidal power of some particular molds: "The author observed the action of aqueous extracts [of various types of molds] on some pathogenic [microorganisms] ... finding them provided ... with considerable bactericidal power ... The properties of these molds are strong obstacle for life and for the propagation of pathogenic bacteria."

"Risulta chiaro da queste osservazioni che nella sostanza cellulare delle muffe esaminate son contenuti dei principi solubili in acqua, forniti di azione battericida: sotto questo riguardo sono piĆ¹ attivi o in maggior copia quelli dell' Asp. flavescens, meno quelli del Mucor mucedo e del Pennicillum glaucum." (It is clear from these observations that in the cellular substance of the molds examined are contained some water-soluble substances, provided with bactericidal action: in this respect are more active or in greater abundance those of Aspergillus flavescens; less, those of Mucor mucedo and Pennicillum glaucum.)Tiberio, Vincenzo (1895) "Sugli estratti di alcune muffe" [On the extracts of certain molds], Annali d'Igiene Sperimentale (Annals of Experimental Hygiene), 2nd series (5 : 91-103)

The results of his research, collected in the aforementioned publication, allowed him to observe that: "The cellular substance of the molds examined contains water-soluble principles, provided with bactericidal action." The above work describes the method of preparing the culture medium and taking the liquid from the plates, the chemical and organoleptic characteristics of the liquid and the study techniques. The ability to stimulate the response of white blood cells to infections (chemotaxis), and the bactericidal power of various strains of the Aspergillus mold on the typhus bacillus were subsequently confirmed by several researchers.

Despite the extreme accuracy and replicability of the Tiberio's research and its evident therapeutic results, the discovery did not have any diffusion or follow-up in the Napoli university environment. Disappointed in his academic and clinical aspirations, he entered the Regia Marina in 1896 as a medical officer.....and so he abandoned his research for some years!

Almost simultaneously also Bartolomeo Gosio, in Rome, in a kind of mold discovered a metabolite with antibiotic properties, and purified it. Mycophenolic acid (MPA) -created by Gosio- was the first true antibiotic in History! In 1922 Gosio was proposed to receive the Nobel in Medicine research, but nothing happened because in that year Mussolini took the control of Italy and in the political chaos in which Italy plunged nothing was done to support the nomination.

However the scientific activity of Tiberio, who completed, at the end of the 19th century, the entire experimental cycle from observation, to the verification of the initial hypothesis, up to the preparation of the antibiotic substance, was much more advanced than that of Alexander Fleming in 1928/29. The latter knew the researches of Tiberio (according to Ernst Chain, who received the Nobel together with Fleming) and certainly those of Gosio despite the scarce diffusion of the same outside Italy, and came to the discovery of "penicillin", as he himself reported, due to an error: "the involuntary contamination of a capsule containing colonies of Staphilococcus aureus with fungal colonies”, which then produced “an inhibition of bacterial growth in the colonies of Staphilococcus aureus”. However, Fleming then failed to experimentally prepare the drug, thus not closing the research cycle, as they had instead done in Napoli Tiberio and later in Rome, Gosio.

Dr. Vincenzo Tiberio wanted to follow his research in 1914, when returned to Italy and was named "Director" of the Service of Hygiene and Bacteriology of the Hospital of the Italian Navy in Piedigrotta (a district of Napoli's metropolitan area), probably with the hope of being able to resume his studies on molds like the "Peniccilium". Indeed we must pinpoint that the famous name "penicillin" comes from the mold "penicillium".

When he returned to Napoli, however, he had little time to carry out his research further, for he was struck down by a myocardial infarction on January 7, 1915, at the age of only 45 years.

In 1947, two years after the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Alexander Fleming, the 1895 book of the Annals of Experimental Hygiene of the University of Rome was found, in which the work on the extracts of some molds was published. The results and methods of the research were disseminated in national scientific journals, but, obviously, they did not have the deserved resonance.

Today the truth is well known since 1947, but the fame of Dr. Tiberio is, despite everything, known only by passionate lovers of the History of Medicine and ignored by most. The Italian Vincenzo Tiberio -34 years before Fleming- had discovered the power of "Penicillin", that has saved millions of human lives, according to the "Presidenza della Regione Molise" (read