- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2005

STOCKHOLM — Australians Barry J. Marshall and Robin Warren won the 2005 Nobel Prize in medicine yesterday for showing that bacterial infection, not stress, was to blame for painful ulcers in the stomach and intestine.

The 1982 discovery transformed peptic ulcer disease from a chronic, frequently disabling condition to one that can be cured by a short regimen of antibiotics and other medicines, the Nobel Prize committee said.

Thanks to their work, it has been established that the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which the Nobel winners discovered, is the most common cause of peptic ulcers.

After proposing that idea, Mr. Marshall and Mr. Warren had to persevere in the face of skepticism. Mr. Marshall even deliberately infected himself with the bacterium in 1985 and showed it caused stomach inflammation, a potential precursor of an ulcer.

The Australians’ idea was “very much against prevailing knowledge and dogma because it was thought that peptic ulcer disease was the result of stress and lifestyle,” Staffan Normark, a member of the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said at a press conference.

Mr. Warren told the Associated Press that it took a decade for others to accept their findings.

“For about a hundred years, or a thousand years, the standard teaching in medicine was that … the stomach was sterile and nothing grew there because of corrosive gastric juices,” he said. “So everybody believed there were no bacteria in the stomach.

“When I said they were there, no one believed it,” he said.

Mr. Marshall said the pair began working together in 1981. “After about three years, we were pretty convinced that these bacteria were important in ulcers, and it was a frustrating time for the next 10 years, though, because nobody believed us,” Mr. Warren said.

“The idea of stress and things like that was just so entrenched nobody could really believe that it was bacteria. It had to come from some weird place like Perth, Western Australia, because I think nobody else would have even considered it.”

Mr. Marshall, 54, and Mr. Warren, 68, celebrated their honor with champagne and beer.

“Obviously, it’s the best thing that can ever happen to somebody in medical research. It’s just incredible,” Mr. Marshall said by telephone from Perth, where the pair were celebrating with family members.

Mr. Warren said he was “very excited and also a little overcome,” with the honor.

The discovery has stimulated research into microbes as reasons for other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis, the assembly said in its citation.

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