Around the world, millions of people have suffered from chronic stomach ailments, including ulcers and gastritis. For generations, medical science taught that these painful and often disabling conditions were caused by emotional stress and dietary factors. Patients receiving conventional treatment might experience temporary relief, only to have the symptoms recur year after year. In Western Australia, a young doctor, working in relative isolation, pursued another hypothesis, the possibility that these chronic stomach ailments were caused by a microscopic corkscrew-shaped organism called Helicobacter pylori.
For over a decade, Dr. Barry Marshall endured the hostility and ridicule of a medical establishment deeply invested in the received wisdom that peptic ulcers were a chronic condition requiring a lifetime of treatment. A pharmaceutical industry earning billions of dollars every year from the sale of prescription ulcer medications was particularly unreceptive to the notion that the ailment could be permanently cured by a short course of antibiotics. When animal testing of his theory proved inconclusive, Dr. Marshall took the courageous step of experimenting on himself, deliberately infecting himself with helicobacter to prove it was the cause of these common ailments. Dr. Marshall proved he had discovered not only the cause but the cure for most stomach ulcers and gastritis.
Today his discovery is recognized as one of the greatest breakthroughs in medicine since the polio vaccine. He continues his struggle against helicobacter, the most common chronic infection in the world. Barry Marshall's vision and courage have been recognized with the greatest honors in the world of science, including the 2005 Nobel Prize in Medicine.