koehler 081721SPRINGFIELD – Penicillium rubens, a strain of penicillium discovered in Peoria, will officially be Illinois’ state microbe thanks to legislation sponsored by State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria), signed into law Tuesday.

“The discovery of penicillium rubens in Peoria saved countless lives during World War II, and has saved many since,” Koehler said. “By making it our official microbe, we ensure that the story of P. rubens will be intertwined in our state history for generations to come.”

Penicillium was initially discovered by Scottish physician Alexander Fleming in 1928, and was found to be very effective in treating bacterial diseases. However, the drug was difficult to distribute on any large scale because it was not easy to produce. During World War II, there was a push to find a strain of the bacteria that could be quickly reproduced and distributed.

Penicillium rubens was discovered on a cantaloupe from a grocery store in Peoria, Illinois, and the fungus isolated from this cantaloupe produced several hundred times as much penicillin as Fleming's original cultures. This discovery allowed doctors and scientists to mass-produce penicillin in large enough quantities to distribute to the general public at the time, to Allied soldiers during WWII, and to countless individuals in the almost century since.

"When we look to our future as a state, it is proper to honor our past. Penicillium rubens was discovered in Peoria at our National Agriculture Utilization Laboratory and paved the way for Penicillin to improve health outcomes all over the world through the twentieth century. Life expectancy was lengthened worldwide because of this momentous work. If that is not a milestone worthy of recognition and hometown pride, then I certainly don't know what is," State Representative Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) said.

P. rubens will officially become the state microbe on January 1, 2022.