help: Penicillium and ripened cheeses

Keith Robison robison at
Tue Jan 23 08:25:56 EST 1996

Andy Weirich (weirich at wrote:
: Several blue cheeses (Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola) develop their 
: characteristic blue mold as a consequence of being innoculated with 
: Penicillium Glauca mold during ripening. Other cheeses (Camembert, Brie) 
: have surfaces treated with a different Penicillium spore. 

: Encyclopedia Brittanica mentions Penicillium Mutata as the penicillium 
: strain responsible for the well-known antibiotic, but also asserts that 
: many (most?) penicillium strains will produce antibiotic substances with 
: varying effects.

: Does anyone know of a reference which investigates what, if any, 
: antibiotic effect is produced by the cheese-ripening penicillium 
: varieties?

I don't know any cites -- but I don't suggest you get a
prescription for Roquefort during your next infection.

Wild strains of Penicillium produce very low levels of
antibiotic -- fine for wiping out their bacterial neighbors
(the reason they have it & Fleming noticed them), but no
good for dosing a human body.  There was an enormous effort
during WWII to find strains which produced large quantities
of antibiotic.  In fact, the first patient ever treated with
penicillin died -- because the doctors ran out of it
(if memory serves me, in at least one early trial the patients'
urine was extracted to recover the precious stuff).

Keith Robison
Harvard University
Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology
Department of Genetics 

robison at 

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