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Nobel Prize Awarded for Stomach Ulcer Discovery 291

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the results-of-a-gut-feeling dept.
gollum123 writes to tell us the BBC is reporting that the Nobel prize for medicine has been awarded to two Australian scientists for their work with ulcers. Their research has shown that the majority of ulcers are caused by bacteria and can be cured with a short-term course of drugs and antibiotics. From the article: "Dr Marshall proved that H. pylori caused gastic inflammation by deliberately infecting himself with the bacterium. The Nobel citation praises the doctors for their tenacity, and willingness to challenge prevailing dogmas."
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Nobel Prize Awarded for Stomach Ulcer Discovery

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  • 1982! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Stile 65 (722451) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @07:59AM (#13711232) Homepage Journal
    The Nobel Prize committee is almost as slow as Slashdot. The actual discovery, per TFA, was made in 1982.
    • Re:1982! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sad Loser (625938) * on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @08:03AM (#13711252)
      This is cool becasue Barry Marshall was a junior doctor who saw something he couldn't explain and decided to investigate and test it, in classic geeky fashion. He even tested the theory by drinking H.Pylori and got the mother of all stomach aches afterwards.
      This proves that it is still possible to do great medical research in the mould (sorry) of Fleming and Penicillin, and you don't need a $100m research budget.

      He suffered a lot of problems getting the medical establishment to believe him, and it took at least 20 years, but once it did, the Nobel was bound to happen sooner or later.

      Good on you Bazza
      • Re:1982! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dirtfox (920178) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @09:04AM (#13711485)
        Perhaps another reason for delay in acceptance of these findings, was that up until the early 90's the * worlds biggest selling drug * was one that inhibits stomach acid production and under patent - unlike cheap as beans & generic broad spectrum antibiotics.

        Rather chilling when you consider one of the body's mechanisms of protection against bacteria is stomach acidity. Hence why European versions of this drug include the ancient antibiotic bismuth (also found in a famous pink stomach medicine)

        So treating a symptom and possibly making it worse in the long run; good business plan - almost as graceful as nicotine enlarging airways and easing breathing: early adverts recommended cigarettes as a cure for bronchitis!
        • Re:1982! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cluckshot (658931)

          Remember this when you hear all the talk about cholestrol and the drugs to treat it.... (Just a hint)

          • Re:1982! (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Well, you can do two things to have proper cholesterol and blood pressure.

            OPTION 1. Excersise. Muscle fat will cause more BP problems than fat on outside. Salt buildup is the major cause of high BP. Aerobic excercise for a few hours every week (you have to sweat :) will get rid off the salt builtup.

            For proper cholesterol, well, stop eating *#$#$#* crap fats. Cholesterol is made by your liver based on the type of fat you eat.

            Polyunsaturated fat - lowers total cholesterol levels
            Unsaturated fat - increases goo
            • by nido (102070) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <65odin>> on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @12:26PM (#13713607) Homepage
              ... I was looking for comments to spend my mod points on, but they'll have to wait.

              For proper cholesterol, well, stop eating *#$#$#* crap fats. Cholesterol is made by your liver based on the type of fat you eat.

              Polyunsaturated fat - lowers total cholesterol levels
              Unsaturated fat - increases good cholesterol
              Saturated fat - increases bad cholesteros
              Transfat - liquid plastic that'll make sure you get a quad bypass.


              Much more important is to stop eating ALL polyunsaturated oils (hydrogenated oils/transfats are usually made from polyunsaturated oils), and replace them with saturated oils.

              Fats that are less-than-fully-saturated quickly go rancid when exposed to oxygen.

              The saturated fat in beef has been slandered in recent years as being unhealthy. It's not that the beef itself is unhealthy, but that most beef cattle are raised with an unatural diet that includes a great deal of polyunsaturated fats, in the form of grains/soybeans in feedlot animal feed.

              Coconut Oil and its Virtues [naturodoc.com]
              The Cholesterol Myths [newtrendspublishing.com]: Exposing the Fallacy That Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease. (intro chapter in PDF form)
              The Tragic Legacy of CSPI [westonaprice.org] (Center for Science in the Public Interest - instigated the anti-saturated fat campaign of the 1980's)
              Also see the rest of the articles on fat [westonaprice.org] at the Weston A. Price foundation site.
              One reason the polyunsaturates cause so many health problems is that they tend to become oxidized or rancid when subjected to heat, oxygen and moisture as in cooking and processing. Rancid oils are characterized by free radicals--that is, single atoms or clusters with an unpaired electron in an outer orbit. These compounds are extremely reactive chemically. They have been characterized as "marauders" in the body for they attack cell membranes and red blood cells and cause damage in DNA/RNA strands, thus triggering mutations in tissue, blood vessels and skin. Free radical damage to the skin causes wrinkles and premature aging; free radical damage to the tissues and organs sets the stage for tumors; free radical damage in the blood vessels initiates the buildup of plaque. Is it any wonder that tests and studies have repeatedly shown a high correlation between cancer and heart disease with the consumption of polyunsaturates New evidence links exposure to free radicals with premature aging, with autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and with Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, Alzheimer's and cataracts.
              -The Skinny on Fats [westonaprice.org]
        • Re:1982! (Score:2, Insightful)

          by BigDukeSix (832501)
          Whilst I agree that drug companies (like all companies) are money-driven, the reasons for the lengthy acceptance time for this particular discovery are complex and rooted in the medicine:

          1) H. pylori is very common in the general population (not just people with ulcers). If it's a causative agent, why do comparatively few people with H. pylori get ulcers?

          2) The inflammation that makes un ulcer hurt also destroys H. pylori. Ergo, no bacteria in the ulcer under a microscope, and no bacteria on cultures.

          • Re:1982! (Score:3, Insightful)

            by yorkpaddy (830859)
            Why do I need anyone to "approve" a drug for me. The FDA has no business telling me what I can and cannot put into my body. If I thought the guy had a point, why should the government tell me I can't take his medicine. Oh, thats right, I need a perscription, so someone else (a doctor) can tell me what I can and cannot put into my body. You people are quick to blame the big bad drug companies, but look at the FDA too. Big drug companies are the only ones that have the money to wade through the approval
            • Re:1982! (Score:3, Insightful)

              by n6kuy (172098)
              Hmmm..
              I'll bet what you need to make you feel better is some of Professor Smith's Patented Emulsified Snake Oil (cures all manner of discomfort and sickness, you know).

              Here, have a swig...

      • Re:1982! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @09:05AM (#13711491)

        This is cool becasue Barry Marshall was a junior doctor who saw something he couldn't explain and decided to investigate and test it, in classic geeky fashion.

        This is what religious fundamentalists/people who push intelligent design will never understand. From the article: The Nobel citation praises the doctors for their tenacity, and willingness to challenge prevailing dogmas. That's the beauty of true science, it's a quest for truth regardless of what was previously "known". If you discover something that conflicts with earlier thinking, not only are you recognized, but you're celebrated. This is because truth, not of centuries of tradition, is the motivating factor behind science.

        I mean, just think about what faith is... No matter how much evidence goes against what you believe, you will still believe it anyway. Simply because it was told to you by your parents and your local wizard. It must be pretty amazing that out of the hundreds of religions all over the face of the Earth you happened to be born into the one "right" religion. Science doesn't care where you come from, or who your parents are, it's all the same search for truth. Science is much more unifying than religion.

        • Hum bug! (Score:2, Flamebait)

          Dude, do you have to work that contentious subject into every thread no matter how thin the connection? You are giving me an ulcer! (Maybe I'll get a Nobel citation in 20 years for discovering this ulcer causing item.)
        • Faith vs. Dogma (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Stu Charlton (1311) * on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @09:51AM (#13711882) Homepage
          I mean, just think about what faith is... No matter how much evidence goes against what you believe, you will still believe it anyway.

          Faith is an essential means to remain optimistic in an uncertain world. Faith is belief in the face of doubt / the absurd. Faith is arguably very important to scientific discovery, lest one doubt their hypotheses.

          On the other hand, blind believe in the face of evidence strikes me more as dogmatism. And there certainly has been a lot of that in the history of science.
          • Re:Faith vs. Dogma (Score:3, Insightful)

            by eraserewind (446891)
            Well, certainly there is dogmatism in science. Scientists are human after all, and have concious and unconcious biases. The thing about science though is that it is able to overcome these human flaws (even if it might often take longer than one would hope). The dogma in this case was overturned after all, in spite of (m|b)millions of dollars worth of antacid industry and established scientific wisdom saying it shouldn't be.
          • Re:Faith vs. Dogma (Score:5, Insightful)

            by @madeus (24818) <slashdot_24818@mac.com> on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @11:23AM (#13712978)
            Faith is an essential means to remain optimistic in an uncertain world. Faith is belief in the face of doubt / the absurd. Faith is arguably very important to scientific discovery, lest one doubt their hypotheses.

            Faith however, is not essential and I would argue it's not particularly desirable. I prefer to practice realism (to the best of my ability) than delude myself with a reality distortion field built on expectations that are by definition unrealistic and founded on false premises.

            You can still be a kind, generous, altruistic and forgiving person and not have faith, but because you believe it's an appropriate way to behave and has net benefits (in that it can be beneficial to you, and to society as a whole because it encourages reciprocal behaviour, as indeed it does).

            Those pushing religion tend not to be keen on that idea though, they prefer to push the notion that you need to latch on to a specific 'faith' system to support you lest you fall of the wagon. I believe that approach is misguided and potentially dangerous.

            'Faith' as a solution is at best a kludge and at worst a red herring, that can lead down a dark path with disastrous repercussions on a global scale. Addressing root causes such as inequality, injustice, and persecution are more effective approaches at dealing with the things that drive people to 'faith' based groups in the first place.

            I do not believe the world can ever be 'a perfect place' - history and logical deduction seem to suggests otherwise, as any social environment that relies on co-operation also leaves open the opportunity for another to profit by shafting others in the group, meaning there will always be an incentive not to co-operate (The Scorpion and the Frog [allaboutfrogs.org]) - and that's to say nothing of human nature, chemical imbalances and behaviour in exception circumstances.

            There is clearly room for significant improvement in the way we interact with each other, particularly on a global scale however I do not believe faith based systems are an effective means of progression to that point. The acceptance of an unfavourable circumstance and a logical extrapolation of the most effective way to resolve an issue are more helpful than any system based on sheer optimism.

            With specific regard to:

            Faith is arguably very important to scientific discovery, lest one doubt their hypotheses

            I think if you don't have any doubt about your hypotheses there is something seriously wrong with your approach. Even if your right you ought to have doubts about it and set out to prove yourself wrong until you are certain you are right, that's how hypotheses progress to being regarded as 'proven'.

        • mitochondria (Score:5, Informative)

          by smazzle (918543) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @09:56AM (#13711924)
          It's similar to Lynn Margulis' discovery that the mitochondria were originally their own organism and have since been integrated into our cells. She first made that claim in the 1980's, and only now has it started to become accepted dogma. It takes time to change minds, and she's still working on it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynn_Margulis [wikipedia.org]
        • Re:1982! (Score:2, Insightful)

          by emh203 (815620)
          In your statement above, replace intelligent design with macro evolution and religious fundamentalist with mainstream scientist and see how it reads. The guys fought against OTHERS IN THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY for YEARS trying to show that they were right. Religious fundamentalists arent the only ones to exhibit such closed minded properties. As I have stated in other posts, scientists have funding that are dependent on 'success'. I work at a research lab in academia. People aren't always after the trut
        • Please explain to me how this guy being ignored and downplayed for 20 years by people who claim to be searching for knowledge is any different than a group of people who may not claim to be searching for scientific truth not beleiving something which may contradict what they see with their own eyes (Galileo)? Looks like dogma rises in all classes of society, not just religion.
        • That's the beauty of true science, it's a quest for truth regardless of what was previously "known". If you discover something that conflicts with earlier thinking, not only are you recognized, but you're celebrated.

          Of course being celebrated often comes long after years of being told you're an idiot, persecuted and maybe not until years after yoiur death.

          And let's not forget that its not the "religious fundamentalists" who are the naysayers/persecuters. In most cases (including Darwin's evolution) its the
      • I saw the story about this discovery about 10 years ago on CBC's The Nature of Things with David Suzuki. The ingrained medical community was very slow to pick up on this important discovery, which is a shame. Antibiotics met similar resistance [pun intended] when they were first discovered, and I think it took about 10 years for them to be finally put to widespread use, during WWII.

        After I saw the TV show, I told anyone who complained in front of me about ulcers, that it was probably treatable with antibi
      • He suffered a lot of problems getting the medical establishment to believe him

        Do "a lot of problems" include stomach aches? :P
    • Re:1982! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slavemowgli (585321) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @08:08AM (#13711270) Homepage
      Don't be silly. The Nobel prize is pretty much the highest award you can receive in the fields where it is awarded - so it's certainly understandable that the committee wants to make sure that those who receive the prize really *have* made a ground-breaking discovery that deserves the prize. And waiting for some time to see what influence a discovery will have is pretty much the only way to find out.

      That being said, yes, the discovery was made in 1982, but it wasn't even *confirmed* until 1987, so it's not just the Nobel prize committee, either.
      • Ouch (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Seoulstriker (748895)
        It's too bad that the Nobel Prize was created to reward promising new scientists and to give them enough funding to continue pursuing their research unabated. I know that the society deviates from its original purpose, but the fact still remains that the Nobel Prize selection procedure is about 10-20 years too late to make the impact it was designed for.
        • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Interesting)

          by IWannaBeAnAC (653701) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @09:01AM (#13711466)
          That is completely wrong. Perhaps you are thinking of the Fields Medal in mathematics? That is sometimes described as the 'mathematics equivalent of the Nobel prize', but the selection criteria is quite different; it recognizes both existsing work and future potential, and you have to be aged 40 or under to receive it.

          The Nobel prize, on the other hand, is awarded purely for groundbreaking research, usually on the basis of a single seminal piece of research but sometimes something more like a 'lifetime acheivement' award. In almost all cases, it is awarded long after the original research, when the impact can be properly judged in the historical context. For many Nobel lauriates, the work they received the prize for was an exception in an otherwise ordinary career. And in some cases, (the physics prize for the 3K microwave cosmic background comes to mind) the recipents were not actually scientists, but just stumbled upon the discovery by accident.

          • Re:Ouch (Score:3, Informative)

            From Alfred Nobel's will:

            "The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the mo

    • Re:1982! (Score:5, Funny)

      by mrogers (85392) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @08:13AM (#13711292)
      Stop bellyaching. It's a long journey from the first the germ of an idea to publishing a tract on the subject, digesting the feedback, ruminating on the implications, eliminating any remaining doubts and finally putting your theory to the acid test. Not everyone has the stomach for it.
      • I propose to conduct a study to find a link between headaches and Slashdot posts with way, way too many puns in them.

        Oy... :)
        =Smidge=
    • It's rather hard to know what new discoveries will stand the test of time unless you wait a while. Waiting is the whole goal for the committee - wait until the idea is proven correct, and evaluate the discovery in the context of how it ended up changing things. Both goals require significant time.

      There's also the problem of the committee unofficially rotating the prize among subdisciplines in a given field, and sometimes a glut of important work. To me, this is somewhat weak for a Nobel prize (which nat

    • Re:1982! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Phreakiture (547094) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @08:46AM (#13711408) Homepage

      The Nobel Prize committee is almost as slow as Slashdot. The actual discovery, per TFA, was made in 1982.

      Similar to what I was going to post. I have known this since 1996 or so, when I heard a presentation by a Dr. Barach. He was saying that the cure for ulcers is tetracycline (antibiotic) and bismuth. In short, antibiotics with a shot of Pepto-Bismol should do it.

      The trouble with Dr. Barach knowing this is that, being a veterinarian, he was forbidden to use this knowledge on people. We have this taboo, which is sometimes codified into law (as it was where he practiced) that one person cannot be licenced as both a DVM and an MD.

      • Dr. Lester Crawford, our FDA commissioner, is a veterinarian.

        Check this [fda.gov] out.
        • Dr. Lester Crawford, our FDA commissioner, is a veterinarian.

          Dr. Crawford has a DVM and a PhD in pharmacology. He is not an MD.

    • Re:1982! (Score:3, Funny)

      by kzinti (9651)
      The Nobel Prize committee is almost as slow as Slashdot. The actual discovery, per TFA, was made in 1982.

      Yeah, but I bet the Nobel Committee only gives them the prize once.
    • Re:1982! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Toutatis (652446)
      It does have its dupes [almaz.com] too.
  • Ughhh..... (Score:2, Funny)

    by segedunum (883035)
    .....that's giving me indigestion.
  • by SpacePunk (17960) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @08:02AM (#13711245) Homepage
    He actually found a cause, and proposed a cure. Most modern barbers are happy to continually treat symptoms since that's what brings in the big bucks.
    • I'm surprised he didn't end up dead

      Come on, how many people do you know who died from ulcers?

      Common medical theory at the time was that the bacteria couldn't survive a gastral war in the stomach. Turned out that it was just very slow to grow.
      • by HBI (604924)
        Ever heard of a bleeding ulcer, vomiting blood and all? Yes, people have died from this.

        The only reason you don't hear about this anymore is the cause is known now. It was a very serious problem when I was a kid.
      • That's too funny, I read it completely differently. I was under the impression that:
        I'm surprised he didn't end up dead

        as:
        I'm surprised I they didn't find him conveniently stabbed to death

        As in people selling treatments making a lot of money don't like young doctors coming up and taking those profits away.

    • OK, who the hell's calling a low-fives userid a Troll? I'll see you outside, now!

      Good, now he's gone, we can talk.

      I agree: there's a lot of money in palliatives, and what's more the patient will keep buying. Cures, on the other hand, tend to get just the one sale.

      I'm currently on peppermints(!) for the evil stomach cramps I've been having for a while. It's a perfect cure... provided I keep buying peppermint capsules for the rest of my life. Not only that, but (I now know) many many people are on the sam
  • Inflammation (Score:2, Informative)

    by iamplupp (728943)
    This was one of the first discovieries but today we know that inflammation is the cause, or at least plays an important role, in lots if other diseases. Heart disease, rheumatism, diabetes, etc.
    • Inflammation isn't really the CAUSE, per se. Peptic ulcer is due to a hypersecretion of stomach acid. H. pylori attacks the D cells in the stomach that normally turn off acid secretion in the parietal cells. It probably directly affects ECL cells (they release histamine, a potent mediator for the release of acid) and also directly stimulates the HCl producing parietal cells as well. The acid doesn't really cause inflammation, it erodes the mucous protective layer in the stomach, which can either perforate

  • My kingom for... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xtracto (837672)
    I would love to see a similar discovery for the IBS. [wikipedia.org]

    How much is can someone pay for a cure of something that can not be cured?
    • Try eating low carb. Do it for at least a month.
    • Re:My kingom for... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by aug24 (38229) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @08:39AM (#13711377) Homepage
      Peppermint oil.

      Seriously - been on them for a week, no symptoms. Not a cure, but a hell of a better life.

      J.

    • Have you tried kefir? [wikipedia.org] Many folks have had success, in fact Dom's Kefir in-site [chariot.net.au] has a bit more in this as well. Yoghurt is technically pro-biotic, but it's effects are only temporary while Kefir can actually repopulate the mucosal lining of your GI tract with beneficial bacteria (which people often mistake yoghurt with doing) and many people have found kefir to help them in sundry ways. The only problem is that almost all store bought kefir is not made from scratch and therefore not nearly as potent as the h
  • by Capt James McCarthy (860294) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @08:08AM (#13711267) Journal
    Infect the researchers.
  • Obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by simong_oz (321118) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @08:10AM (#13711280) Journal
    Possibly the best quote from a scientist ever (my emphasis):

    From another BBC article [bbc.co.uk]

    Mr Warren said he was a "little overcome" by the award.

    "It is nice to be officially recognised and it gives some sort of a stamp of approval, but we believed it within a few months because it was so bloody obvious," he told reporters.
  • About time! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ashridah (72567) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @08:23AM (#13711329)
    About time this happened.

    My mother was the unfortunate sufferer of a stomach ulcer for almost 30 years of her life.

    One day, her doctor finds out she has it (after all, who keeps trying to fix a 30 year old condition that hasn't killed you yet?), and gives her the newly recognised course of broad-spectrum anti-biotics & neutralisers (since the stomach is kinda hard to treat, acidic n all, tends to destroy the anti-biotics before they have an effect ;) ), and a month later, she's fine!

    It's scary how long it took for the standard opinion to get torn down, and how simple the final answer really was! In hindsight, the original theory sounds decidedly suspicious. Stress, indeed.

    ashridah
    • Re:About time! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TGK (262438)
      After his work in .au, the good doctor came to work at the University of Virginia (just up the road from me) where he treated, among other people, a fair chunk of my wife's family. It seems the bacteria in question is rampant throughout the ground water system in Natural Bridge VA.

      Re-infection can be a serious problem for people in areas like that. Apparently much of his work at UVA dealt with susceptibility studies and clustering. Fascinating guy.

    • This a common thread. People forget doctors are people too. They are trained well but at times may miss things (From reading your post it sounded like she had never mentioned it) and may trivialize things. I know a guy who went to his doctor as he had a rash on his legs. She said it was a heat rash and it ended up being shingles.

      Point is that sometimes it is best to question your doctor and get a second opinion. If it seems like your doctor is dismissing something, question them about it.
    • In hindsight, the original theory sounds decidedly suspicious.

      I've heard that, after Hans Selye's [wikipedia.org] work on stress, [wikipedia.org] there was a period of sloppily using "stress" as a default "diagnosis" to explain away the unknown disease processes, such as gastric ulcer.

      I remember discussing this with my graduate advisor in chemistry around 1992; he was glad to see someone persist in the face of criticism to understand what was really going on.
  • by Herbst (153199) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @08:26AM (#13711344)
    "Dr Marshall proved that H. pylori caused gastic inflammation by deliberately infecting himself with the bacterium."

    Smart thinking. You either get a Nobel Prize or a Darwin Award. A win-win situation.

  • Bacteria?!? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Talisman (39902) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @08:33AM (#13711363) Homepage
    And all this time I thought it was the pizza, beer, nachos and salsa I cram into my face daily. Now that I know it's bacteria, I have to make a call for some anti-biotics...and another double pepperoni!
  • by zaguar (881743)
    Dr. Marshall worked for my dad while he was in Perth. My father said that he was not especially brilliant, although competent - but he was extremely hard-working. Perhaps this is why he did get the Nobel Prize.
  • by warmgun (669556) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @08:45AM (#13711402)
    The Nobel prize in Physics has been awarded also: http://nobelprize.org/ [nobelprize.org]

    According to the schedule on the website, chemistry gets awarded tomorrow and peace on Friday.

  • Meanwhile, on September 29th, the 2005 Right Livelyhood Awards [rightlivelihood.org], also known as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize', were announced. (Link to RLA homepage [rightlivelihood.org])
  • by Wills (242929) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @08:52AM (#13711430)
    Years before this discovery was made, stomach ulcers like so many other health problems always used to be labelled by the doctors as a "stress" or "lifestyle" related condition, without any proof that anything more definite than that was really directly responsible. Even to this day, it is amazing that medicine still has literally thousands of loosely-defined medical "conditions" and "syndromes" which have no known specific cause but which are nonetheless given proper names for doctors to use as convenient diagnostic labels. Doctors are still trained to diagnose these "conditions", rather than to think harder about possible underlying cause(s). The two scientists in this story were brave enough to challenge the conventional wisdom of their peers that stress and lifestyle factors cause stomach ulcers. It's interesting to wonder how many other "conditions" are actually caused by undetected bacteria or viruses which are waiting to be discovered by scientists prepared to challenge the prevailing dogma.
    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @09:26AM (#13711662)
      Mod parent up.

      This is a very insightful view of what is a real problem with the current practice of medicine . There are many 'syndromes' that are considered to be triggered by lifestyle when actually there are deeper root causes. All too much of medicine is based on statistical studies that show correlations - and correlations do not in any way provide causality.

      The real breakthrough in the discovery of a bacterial cause of ulcers is the spotlight it places on the worth of really finding the root cause of a problem rather than just hand waving and correlative studies. Hopefully the medical profession and medical research takes this lesson seriously because it provides a path to real progress in treatment of many debilitating serious chronic diseases. We spend too much time treating symptoms rather than auses and it drives the cost of medical care sky high.

  • by AgentPhunk (571249) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @09:01AM (#13711462)
    He infected /himself/? I thought that was what TA's and Post-grads were for.
  • by Otheus (897195) <otheus AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @09:01AM (#13711463) Journal
    Nobel once again is playing politics with science. This discovery's utility is dubious. Referring to the Scientic American article [sciam.com] earlier this year, there is strong evidence to suggest that eliminating H. pylori is worse than the symptoms created by too much of it. In fact, the article's authors suggest, the key is a proper balance of the bacteria. A strong dose of H. pylori-targeted antibiotics may likely lead to other digestive problems.

    And concerning the awardees "tenacity". Well, according to Kimball Atwood IV of Skeptical Inquirer (here [csicop.org]), the H. pylori discovery "against all odds" success is more hype than reality. Oddly enough, the hype is most likely (IMHO) created by those continuing to practice anti-science and pseudo-science.

    So I ask the question: Why was this discovery worthy of the Nobel prize?

    • by chinodelosmuertos (805584) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @09:45AM (#13711837)
      Hmm. You sorta opened a can of worms here. A couple of issues here.

      First: Does H. pylori eradication lead to increased incidence of Barrett's esophagitis and esophageal cancer? Maybe. The jury is still out. The Japanese have just published a pretty comprehensive review (Japanese Journal of Clinical Medicine. 63(8):1383-6, 2005 Aug)on the subject. The increase in one may be more common with the eradication of the other. Fine. Are they casually related? That's a more complex question that I think the research is sorta investigating. I dont think Scientific American really has the answer.

      But that's not the major issue. Stomach ulcer is a condition that PRIOR to the triple treatment (bismuth + antibiotics + acid inhibitors) would take months to years to heal. Some anecdotal stories as long as 6 years. More. Sometimes never. Leading to serious, serious complications that have even worse prognoses. You see what I'm getting at here. Quality of life years lost are huge, affecting huge chunks of the population. Known risk of causing stomach cancer, perforation of your guts (think your guts spilling into your abdominal cavity) and iron deficiency due to chronic bleeding just for a start. Now we're saying... OK. It MAY result in reflux, eosophageal cancer and Barrett's (cells in your eosophagus changing morphology).

      Hardly the "eliminating H. pylori is worse than the symptoms created by too much of it." If anything, what this might suggest is that there might be some unwanted complications to altering the internal milieu of the stomach, and they should be addressed. Full stop. Sky's not falling yet, pal.

    • Excellent points... however... I had an H. Pylori infection and no ulcer. Doc gave me strong AB's and after the regiment, my stomach WAS worse off. The key here is to add PRO-Biotics because the regiment of AB's kills ALL bacteria (bad: H. Pylori as well as good: L. Acidophilus, L.Rhamnosus,L. Plantarum, B. Longum and B. Bifidum,,etc...). After I returned and told my doc that I feel even worse than before, he just told me to get some Pro-bio's. The key here is to take the AB's alongside with PB's and you
  • by DarkFencer (260473) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @09:06AM (#13711503)
    Fortunately, this is a very easy thing to diagnose and treat. I'd never had a problem with heartburn, but in the past several months it has become unbearable. The doctor gave me a blood test for H. Pylori, which came with very high levels of the bacteria

    I'm actually currently taking a treatment for it. One of the common ones is a combination of three drugs. Two antibiotics (for me Amoxicillin and Clarithromycin), and a PPI (Proton Pump Inhibitor - like Nexium, Protonix, or a few others - I'm taking Prevacid).

    The only draw back to the treatment is its a LONG 14 days of strong medicine. Makes your stomach feel horrible to say the least.

    But the point is, I'd rather a couple weeks like this, then years of popping antacids. My thanks go out to these pioneers.
  • by elgatozorbas (783538) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @09:26AM (#13711665)
    Be coincidence I read about this research a week ago in a book called "Das Buch der verrückten Experimente" ('The book of weird experiments'). When looking for a gift for a geek or if want to have an interesting read yourself, look no further. About ALL weird experiments you have ever heard ebout, and many more are described in there (Milgram experiment, prisoner/guard experiment, rat race, spiders on drugs, biological warfare, chances of having sex with complete strangers,...).

    I am not sure if there is an English translation, but the web site [verrueckte...rimente.de] has some excerpts.

  • What exactly is "stress", and why is is still being used as an explanation in the medical establishment. This sounds less like science and more like voodoo. (apologies to any voodoo priests in the audience)
  • by deuterium (96874) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @09:36AM (#13711767)
    "We propose that this condition is not precipitated by an agitated state of humors, but by tiny microbes". The stress model of disease has always been a bit too subjective and artificial for me. Stress is still generically cited as being responsible for heart disease and depression. It's not even so much that stress is blamed, but the assumed endpoint of a personal reaction. Stress is supposedly something we can control... a reaction to the events of our day. Treating as it presently is, it's almost like a supernatural power. Stress may be associated with events and feelings, but it's also a cascade of chemical messengers that are amenable to study. Why not dig deeper into what reactions and dynamics the release of glucocorticoids and norepinephrine induce? There is a medical prejudice against things brain related. If diabetes was primarily associated with a mood disorder, would it have been researched as well? I guess the special case argument for the ignorance of microbes in ulcers has to do with the assumption that bacteria don't grow well in the environment of the stomach, but still. Any identifiable condition that is currently written off as an intangible artifact of one's personality type seems ripe for rediscovery, and there are still plenty, especially in gastroenterology and physchiatry. It's no surprise to me that this discovery was in the GI field. It's this lack of basic research that keeps open a market for herbalists, homeopaths, and their ilk.
    • Well said! The sooner we accept that we are no different from plants or animals (ie: just a bunch of chemical reactions), the sooner we'll start doing real science.
  • by csoto (220540) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @09:47AM (#13711857)
    Drug companies don't like this kind of science (i.e.. that actually gets to the science behind the illness). Antibiotics are a few bucks for an entire course. They want you on chronic meds, not "cured."
  • by WormholeFiend (674934) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @09:58AM (#13711944)
    But can someone tell me which drugs and antibiotics I should give to my PHB in order to cure my ulcers?
  • I suffer from "Adult Onset Asthma"- the first symptoms happened when I was about 27. Every doctor I've talked to about it wants me to get allergy shots, take antihisthamenes, and bronchodialators. At best, these things have just served to mask some of my symptoms. There is big business in maintainence medicines for asthma- keep treating the symptoms, and they are on your medicine for life. The only drug that was truly effective was an inhaler based medicine called Serevent. This medicine got pulled bec
  • by peter303 (12292) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @10:27AM (#13712286)
    This Nobel-winning research open up some people's minds that other chronic diseases might be due to infectious agents also. Some people have suggested that artery plaques and inflamation- the precursors of heart attacks and strokes- might be caused by germs such as a variant of the clymadia bacteria. Some people suspect a role in cancer too. Only a couple of cancers are known for sure such as Karposis and Hep-C liver cancer, but others are suspected. Considering that decades of low-level research havent firmly resolved the issue one way or the other, its still somewhatof an open question. Should the answer be "yes, some", then other kinds of phrophlactic treatments could be suggested.
  • by MythoBeast (54294) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @10:51AM (#13712605) Homepage Journal
    I think that this label is a little misleading. If memory serves, the "short term" course of drugs and antibiotics involves four different antibiotics used in pairs over several months. Heliobacter are some truly resilient critters. You have to use them in pairs partially because the heliobacter become resistant, and partially to avoid completely ruining your intenstinal ecology.

    Admittedly, this is short term compared to the years of antibiotics that some people wind up using, and it's better than living with an ulcer for the rest of your life.
    • There are several that they can use, but it was only two weeks with one antibiotic for my wife. It was a strong antibiotic to be sure, and in some rare cases you have to do a second treatement, but normally one works. They also give prevacid or something similar at the same time, but that's just for the symptoms.
  • Well, it took two decades, but Robin Warren and Barry Marshall are finally being honored for making sense of something we pathologists had all seen right in front of our noses but ignored.

    What I really love about their work is that it was done with the conventional clinical tools that had been available to pathologists and gastroenterologists for decades, even in non-academic venues. Their example illustrates that great work can still be done without employing multimillion-dollar labs, big grants, and multi
  • He was willing to inoculate himself [harvard.edu] to prove his theories.

    From the link:

    Apparently Pasteur himself was among those awed by his stunning demonstrations of power over life and death. He developed a remarkably robust faith that he could do no harm. When, in an incident that Geison omits, Dr. Grancher, one of his assistants, accidentally stuck himself with a syringe filled with a virulent emulsion, Pasteur proposed that Grancher inoculate himself with the rabies vaccine and then, as if to conjure away any possi

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