Monday, October 03, 2005

It's not about livestyle

A Nobel to the team that discovered (and proved) that peptic ulcers were not caused by stress but by bacteria.

The discovery that bacteria rather than stress cause stomach ulcers and that antibiotics can cure the condition has won this year's Nobel prize in physiology or medicine.

Two Australian scientists who isolated the microbe responsible for peptic ulcers and were the first to show the condition is infectious were yesterday jointly awarded the £1m prize.

In 1982, Robin Warren, a pathologist at the Royal Perth Hospital, was the first to show that patients with chronic ulcers also tended to harbour colonies of bacteria in their stomachs.

Barry Marshall, a researcher at the University of Western Australia, became interested in Professor Warren's findings and initiated the studies that led to the identification of the bacterium responsible, which they named Helicobacter pylori.

Dr Marshall went on to test the theory personally by deliberating exposing himself to the bug and so triggering a bout of acute gastric illness in his own stomach.

Until the two scientists carried out their pioneering research, it was widely believed that nothing could live in the extremely acid environment of the stomach, and that ulcers and gastritis were the result of lifestyle and stress.

Professor Warren said it took a decade for others to accept their findings. "Everybody believed there were no bacteria in the stomach. When I said they were there, no one believed it," he said.

Shades of the volunteers who risked death by yellow fever to prove that mosquitos were the vector! I quote Dr. Walter Reed: "Gentlemen, I salute you."


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