Robin Warren and Barry Marshall from Australia have been awarded the Nobel prize for medicine for their discovery that stomach ulcers can be caused by
a bacterial infection. In 1982, when H. pylori was discovered by Dr Marshall and Dr Warren, stress and lifestyle were considered the major causes of
stomach and intestinal ulcers. It is now firmly established that the bacterium causes more than 90% of duodenal (intestinal) ulcers and up to 80% of
gastric (stomach) ulcers.
Dr Warren, a pathologist from Perth, paved the way for the breakthrough when he discovered that small curved bacteria colonised the lower part of the
stomach in about 50% of patients from which biopsies had been taken.
He also made the crucial observation that signs of inflammation were always present in the stomach lining close to where the bacteria were seen. Dr
Marshall became interested in the findings and together they initiated a study of biopsies from 100 patients. After several attempts, Dr Marshall
succeeded in cultivating a hitherto unknown bacterial species - H. pylori - from several of these biopsies.
Lord May of Oxford, President of the Royal Society, said: "The work by Barry Marshall and Robin Warren produced one of the most radical and important
changes in the last 50 years in the perception of a medical condition.
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