Mitochondrial Health Part 6: The Magic Bullet- Methylene Blue
In 1900, Paul Ehrlich coined the term “magic bullet” when he was referring to a chemical discovered in 1876 by Heinrich Caro a German chemist working for BASF called methylene blue. Methylene blue, a brilliant blue salt that was at first used as a blue dye for the textile industry. By the year 1890, microbiologist Robert Koch was using it to stain cells and tissues when looking at slides under a microscope. A Polish pathologist Czeslaw Checinski used it to stain the parasite causing malaria and to his surprise killed the parasite. In 1891, it was Paul Ehrlich who published a case study on two malaria patients who were cured of malaria with methylene blue making it the first synthetic drug. When antibiotics were discovered in the early part of the 20th century, these new drugs replaced methylene blue in the prevention and treatment of malaria.
Methylene blue, used today as an antiseptic in the blood supply to kill microbes to reduce risk of infection during an infusion of blood, also has FDA approval it to treat a condition called methemoglobinemia. This is a condition where the hemoglobin inside the red blood cells become oxidized and can no longer transport oxygen. Symptoms of methemoglobinemia are blue fingertips, shortness of breath, confusion, seizures, coma, and metabolic acidosis from low levels of oxygen in the blood. Methylene blue is in the emergency rooms of hospitals across the U.S. for the treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning and other chemical poisonings that would result in the condition of methemoglobinemia.