Nystatin and the Women Who Founded the Antifungal Era

Author: C.R. Cooper

Author address:

Youngstown State University, YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO, USA

Full conference title:

20th Congress of the International Society for Human and Animal Mycology, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Date: 24 July 2018


A survey conducted by Espinel-Ingroff and published in 2003 ranked the development of antifungal agents as the second most critical event in the field of medical mycology within the United States. The landmark discovery of the first effective antifungal drug, the polyene Nystatin, occurred during an era in American history in which society promoted traditional gender roles of domesticity and conformity. It is therefore notable that Nystatin’s discovery resulted from the persistent and diligent work of two women scientists – Rachel Fuller Brown and Elizabeth Lee Hazen. Their seminal contribution markedly impacted the field of medical mycology. At the time of its development, Nystatin provided the first effective means of treating fungal infections. Additionally, its discovery prompted the development of newer and more efficacious chemotherapeutic agents, including amphotericin, another polyene now considered the “gold standard” of antifungal drugs. Though in limited use today for various reasons, Nystatin is nonetheless listed on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines as an important option in treating fungal infections. Furthermore, Brown and Hazen contributed the $13 million in royalties (approximately $100 million today) resulting from the patenting of Nystatin to research and, significantly, to training programs critical to advances in medical mycology. Acknowledging the context of societal perceptions and expectations of the time, this presentation shall document the discovery of Nystatin and the women who pioneered its development, as well as the consequences of the legacy bestowed upon us by Brown and Hazen.

Abstract Number: S8.2b

Conference Year: 2018

Link to conference website:

Link Conference abstract: 

ISHAM 2018

Conference abstracts, posters & presentations

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