Mercurochrome - A Historical Perspective Mercurochrome


(H.W. & D. Brand of Merbromin, dibromohydroxymercurifluorescein-sodium)

    The story of Mercurochrome began in 1889 with the discovery of a red dye, phenolsulfonphthalein, by Professor Ira Remsen of the John Hopkins University. Dr. L. G. Rowntree working with Professor J. J. Abel found that phenolsulfonphthalein is eliminated from the body almost entirely through the kidneys. The clinical application of this observation by Dr. Rowntree led to the introduction of the Rowntree-Geraghty kidney function test.

    The phenolsulfonphthalein used in this work had been prepared by Dr. H. A. B. Dunning, of Hynson, Westcott & Dunning, who originated the first economical process for its production, and the firm later made the dye generally available. At that time there was no good urinary antiseptic, but since phenolsulfonphthalein is excreted through the urinary tract, Dr. Geraghty suggested the introduction of a metallic radical into the dye molecule as a problem worthy of investigation. A compound of this nature, a mercury derivative of phenolsulfonphthalein, was synthesized by Dr. Dunning and investigated by Drs. Hugh H. Young and E. G. Davis, who published a report. The problem was later taken over by Dr. E. C. White, who was working under Dr. Hugh H. Young in the Brady Urological Institute of the John Hopkins University. Dr. White, in 1919 prepared a related compound, a mercury derivative of dibromresorcinphthalein. This compound, dibromohydroxymercurifluorescein, gave evidence of greater practical value than the original compound investigated by Drs. Young and Davis. The process for manufacturing the sodium salt, from which the two percent aqueous solution of Mercurochrome is prepared, was devised by Dr. Dunning.

    While Mercurochrome is now widely used as a general antiseptic by physicians and is employed throughout the world in the first aid care of wounds, it was originally introduced to the medical profession as a urinary antiseptic. Its use in this way led to more general application in case in which an antiseptic was required. Mercurochrome thus came gradually to the attention of the laity and is now perhaps the best known and most widely used antiseptic in the world.

Vintage Pharmacist's 10 gram bottle of crystals used for making aqueous solution, usually 2% Mercurochrome.

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Recently manufactured Mercurochrome (2% Solution)
25 ml bottle on left (Barbados) and 30 ml bottle on right (Guyana)
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PDF of 1932 Book "Mercurochrome" published by Hynson, westcott & Dunning, Inc