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Monroe J. Romansky, 95; Created Penicillin Formula

From the Washington Post

Monroe J. Romansky, an infectious-disease doctor who in the 1940s developed a beeswax-and-peanut oil formula that prolonged the duration of penicillin in the body, has died. He was 95.

He died Aug. 12 at a Washington, D.C., hospital of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Romansky’s Formula, as his discovery came to be known, transformed the treatment of wartime infectious diseases, such as syphilis and pneumonia.

“To keep penicillin in the body longer, scientists have tried out a dozen different methods,” a 1946 Newsweek article reported. “One of the best is penicillin mixed with beeswax and peanut oil, discovered by Dr. Monroe J. Romansky.”

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He was serving in the Army Medical Corps at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington during World War II, when physicians were searching for ways to fight numerous battlefield diseases and infections. The most valuable antibiotic then was penicillin, discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming and mass-produced during the war years. But penicillin was a short-acting drug that required injections every three hours.

Romansky’s technique involved substituting his wax-and-oil mixture for the saline solution generally used in administering penicillin. He developed an eight-day treatment for syphilis that required only one injection daily.

President Truman awarded him the Legion of Merit for his contribution, which was credited with saving thousands of lives and reducing suffering.

Romansky, who wrote more than 150 articles, monographs and books, became a professor of medicine at George Washington University Medical School in 1947. He later was chief of infectious diseases at District of Columbia General Hospital and at George Washington University’s medical school. He also had a private practice from 1970 until retiring in 1991.

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Born in Hartford, Conn., on March 13, 1911, Romansky graduated from Maine University in 1933, excelling academically and athletically. He played baseball, football and basketball and was All-New England in the three sports and an All-American honorable mention in football.

While attending medical school at the University of Rochester, he supported himself by pitching semipro baseball. He did his residency at the university, conducted kidney research and, after graduating in 1937, stayed on as a fellow in infectious diseases.

Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Evelyn Romansky of Chevy Chase, Md; four sons; and 11 grandchildren.


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