Nobel Prize: Australians win for linking bug to ulcers

Andy Coghlan in New Scientist:

Two Australians have won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for establishing that bacteria cause stomach ulcers, it was announced on Monday.

Working at the Royal Perth Hospital, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren established beyond all doubt in the 1980s that Helicobacter pylori causes stomach ulcers by infecting and aggravating the gut lining.

Moreover, they showed that ulcers could be cured altogether by killing the bacteria with antibiotics. Hitherto, ulcers had been considered uncurable. Instead, patients’ symptoms were treated with a lifetime of drugs to reduce the acidity of the gut.

The pair’s claims provoked a fierce backlash from the medical establishment, which held to the dogma that ulcers were brought on by stress and lifestyle, and could not be cured. By revealing a simple cure, the researchers also threatened to destroy huge and lucrative global markets for the existing anti-ulcer drugs, which simply eased symptoms.

More here.

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