When the work was presented, my results were disputed and disbelieved, not on the basis of science but because they simply could not be true. It was often said that no one was able to replicate my results. This was untrue but became part of the folklore of the period. I was told that the bacteria were either contaminants or harmless commensals.
It was a campaign, everyone was against me. But I knew I was right, because I actually had done a couple of years' work at that point. I had a few backers. And when I was criticized by gastroenterologists, I knew that they were mostly making their living doing endoscopies on ulcer patients. So I'm going to show you guys. A few years from now you'll be saying, "Hey! Where did all those endoscopies go to?" And it will be because I was treating ulcers with antibiotics.
The livelihood of gastroenterologists and many of the drug companies depended on these drugs that were worth billions of dollars, treating millions of people with ulcers. And the thing about ulcers is they come back every second year, that's why they're always thought to be constitutional, or emotional, or caused by stress, because the patient's lifestyle would stay the same and maybe each winter he would get his ulcer back. Gastroenterologists, it seemed to me, only need a few hundred patients. They would do the same endoscopy on the patient each year. He would come back with ulcer symptoms, they'd put the scope down and say, "Yes, you've got an ulcer again. Try this other ulcer medication." There was always a new one to try on the patients in the '80s. And I would say, "Hang on a minute. There's something wrong here. When you see an ulcer, you give the patient Tagamet. And if the patient doesn't have an ulcer, you give the patient Tagamet. Why are we doing this endoscopy when they all get Tagamet?" That was the big drug in those days. I was a little skeptical of that diagnosis of being neurotic or a little stressful. If we didn't find anything there, particularly in women, we would say, "You're under a lot of stress, my dear. You haven't really got anything wrong with yourself. We'll give you an antidepressant." I used to see this happening so often in women whose biopsies were very, very inflamed with these bacteria.
So, that is what proves something in medicine. Someone who isn't you gets the same result and says, "Hey, he must be right."
Since the early days of medical bacteriology, over one hundred years ago, it
was taught that bacteria do not grow in the stomach. When I was a student,
this was taken as so obvious as to barely rate a mention. It was a "known fact,"
like "everyone knows that the earth is flat." Known facts can be dangerous; to
quote Sherlock Holmes (Conan Doyle, The Boscombe Valley Mystery) "There is
nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."
From Robin Warren's Nobel Prize Lecture
Barry Marshall and Robin Warren,
Against prevailing dogmas, you discovered that one of the most common and important diseases of mankind, peptic ulcer disease, is caused by a bacterial infection of the stomach. Your discovery has meant that this frequently chronic and disabling condition can now be permanently cured by antibiotics to the benefit of millions of patients. Your pioneering work has also stimulated research all around the world to better understand the link between chronic infections and diseases such as cancer. On behalf of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, I wish to convey to you our warmest congratulations, and I now ask you to step forward to receive the Nobel Prize from the hands of His Majesty the King.
-Professor Staffan Normark
From Nobel Prize Presentation
Thanks for checking out the Ultimate Barry Marshall Fan Page. I hoped you
learned a lot about the Nobel Prize winning Physician.
My name is Rob Cockerham. I make webpages.
This is my third fan-page. The first is for Hans Blix, and the second one is for a basketball player named Keon Clark.
My personal website is called Cockeyed.com. It features
science projects, pranks, craft projects and a popular feature called "How much is inside". I've also complied a comprehensive list of causes.
I learned about Barry Marshall from my father, and found more after my wife's ulcer was cured.
I can be reached at the email address below. Thank you.
email@example.com, October, 2006