What Really Causes Ulcers- The Fascinating Saga of Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Barry Marshall

What Really Causes Ulcers- The Fascinating Saga of Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Barry Marshall


When it comes to science, we think there’s
a saying that is fairly applicable, “who dares, wins”. Fans of military history may
recognise that as the motto of the Special Air Services (SAS). However, we feel scientists
and researchers deserve to use it just as much, because sometimes they take risks too.
Just ask Nobel Prize winner Barry J. Marshall if you don’t believe us.
Marshall is known primarily for his work revolving around peptic ulcers. If you don’t think
that sounds important, ask someone who has had them how painful they are and then shield
your groin from the barrage of kicks as they try to give you some idea of the crippling
level of pain. Beyond the agony and the decreased quality of life it can cause, peptic ulcers
have been linked to increased chances of one getting stomach cancer.
Prior to Marshall’s work, it was commonly accepted by the medical community that ulcers
were caused by a combination of stress, spicy food and too much stomach acid being produced.
Something that many people still believe to this day. Seriously, ask anyone on the street
what causes stomach ulcers and “stress” will likely be one of the answers you’ll
get. Marshall’s first significant encounter with
stomach ulcers was while training to become a specialist in gastroenterology. During this
time, he came into contact with Dr Robin Warren, who just so happened to be treating several
patients with crippling stomach ulcers. During treatment, Warren had collected samples of
a bacteria that seemed present in every ulcer patient.
This bacteria, Helicobacter pylori was later found to be directly responsible for ulcers.
That said, neither Warren nor Marshall discovered the bacteria. In his work, Helicobacter pylori:
Physiology and Genetics, Marshall himself penned a section on how humanity has been
aware of the bacteria since 1893. Along with this, links between the bacteria and ulcers
had been suggested as early as 1940 by Dr. A. Stone Freedberg, a cardiologist from Harvard.
In fact, it’s widely accepted that if Freedberg would have continued with his research into
these microbes and ulcers, he likely would have solved the problem decades before Marshall
did. However, Freedberg’s boss pressured him to abandon his research in favor of something
that would be easier to prove, so that’s exactly what he did. In the meantime, millions
of people suffered and lost chunks of their stomachs via wholly unnecessary surgery.
One of the reasons Freedberg, and indeed just about every other scientist and microbiologist
that wasn’t a crazed Australian, gave up on this line of reasoning was due to overwhelming
opposition from the wider scientific community. As mentioned, up until Marshall shotgunned
a glass of the bacteria, the commonly accepted cause of ulcers was stress and stomach acid,
as it was believed no bacteria could thrive in the highly acidic environment of the stomach.
You know, even though people had been finding said bacteria in stomachs since 1893. There
was also the fact that there was a lot of documented evidence that antibiotics cleared
ulcers right up. In the case of Freedberg, when he made his
prediction about the link between bacteria and ulcers and tests were inconclusive, his
superiors essentially told him to give up and stop wasting his time. On a similar vein,
when Greek doctor John Lykoudis presented his findings that antibiotics eradicated ulcers
in 1964, his evidence was largely ignored because it went against the current consensus.
In fact, in 1968, when Lykoudis refused to stop treating (and curing) his patients’
stomach ulcers with antibiotics, he was fined 4000 Drachma for his troubles and was largely
regarded as a quack until Marshall went freshman on a glass of Helicobacter pylori.
In other words, suggesting ulcers were caused by anything other than stress was career suicide.
Regardless, both Marshall and Warren continued with their research and although the pair
managed to cultivate Helicobacter pylori, they couldn’t make
it cause stomach ulcers, regardless of how
many piglets they injected it into. As Marshall stated,
“…1984 was a difficult year. I was unsuccessfully attempting to infect an animal model. There
was interest and support from a few but most of my work was rejected for publication and
even accepted papers were significantly delayed. I was met with constant criticism that my
conclusions were premature and not well supported. 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. At the same time I was successfully experimentally
treating patients who had suffered with life threatening ulcer disease for years. Some
of my patients had postponed surgery which became unnecessary after a simple 2 week course
of antibiotics and bismuth. I had developed my hypothesis that these bacteria were the
cause of peptic ulcers and a significant risk for stomach cancer. If I was right, then treatment
for ulcer disease would be revolutionized. It would be simple, cheap and it would be
a cure. It seemed to me that for the sake of patients this research had to be fast tracked.
The sense of urgency and frustration with the medical community was partly due to my
disposition and age. However, the primary reason was a practical one. I was driven to
get this theory proven quickly to provide curative treatment for the millions of people
suffering with ulcers around the world.” He finally reasoned that there had to be an
easier way. Even though Marshall was absolutely convinced the bacteria caused stomach ulcers,
he couldn’t test his theory on humans. However, no law could stop Marshall from testing his
theory on himself. Which is exactly what he did on June 12, 1984.
Marshall finished his workday after drinking the bacteria. If movies have taught me anything,
scientists who test their theories on themselves invariably become either superheroes or supervillains,
and that’s kind of what happened here. At least, I assume most people who’ve had the
misfortune of suffering from ulcers consider Mashall to be something of a superhero.
So what exactly happened after he drank the offending microbes? Despite Marshall thinking
that it would take weeks if not months for anything significant to occur, just a few
days later, he developed ulcers for the first time in his life, along with presumably the
inability to stop extending his middle finger at the medical community.
Marshall put a stop to his little experiment after two weeks when his wife found out about
it. He didn’t need to be a scientist to know that upsetting your wife is worse for
one’s well-being than stomach ulcers, even when factoring in the potential increased
risk of getting stomach cancer. But, as he said, “She was already convinced
about the risk of these bacteria and I knew I would never get her approval. This was one
of those occasions when it would be easier to get forgiveness than permission.”
After a biopsy to further document this event, he then treated himself with antibiotics and
was soon fully cured of the ulcers. At this point, certain people within the medical
community started paying closer attention to Marshall’s research and taking it a whole
lot more seriously. However, it still took time and a significant amount of work and
publicity to get the message across; even into the early 1990s after curing numerous
people of ulcers and publishing several papers on the subject, many in the medical field
still scoffed at him and even outright accused him of pushing snake oil-like treatments onto
their patients through the media who was eating up the battle Marshall was waging. Of course,
the fact that these patients predominately ended up cured was winning over more and more
medical professionals as time went by. Finally, in 1994, it all changed when the
National Institutes of Health (NIH) held a two day summit in Washington D.C. over the
matter. They could no longer ignore the evidence. At the end of the summit, they released a
statement stating that “the key to treatment of duodenal and gastric ulcer was detection
and eradication of Helicobacter pylori.” With that stamp of approval on his work, the
majority of the holdouts in the medical community switched their stance and accepted Marshall’s
hypothesis. Eleven years later, in 2005, he was given a Nobel prize for his work, which
was all the more impressive given the extreme opposition he had faced. Sure, scientists
(and really everyone) should always question new ideas and thoroughly vet them. But when
a mountain of well documented evidence in easily repeatable scientifically performed
experiments clearly shows the old theory was wrong and the new one right, one shouldn’t
continue to oppose it just because it’s not what was believed before. Yet, it took
Marshall climbing on top of that mountain of evidence and showing his ulcer filled stomach
before anyone started to listen. Let that be a lesson to everyone. Even the
smartest of us humans are amazingly susceptible to getting stuck in a “knowledge rut.”
Always question everything, and never stop learning.
Bonus Fact: • Funny enough, the first “news” agency
to report on Marshall’s little experiment was Star newspaper, which as he put it was
“a tabloid that often features stories about alien babies being adopted by Nancy Reagan.
This was right up their alley. The next day the story appeared, ‘Guinea-pig doctor discovers
new cure for ulcers … and the cause.’” Needless to say, this wasn’t an auspicious
beginning to being taken seriously, but certain key people did take notice thanks to the story,
and funding for further experiments started to trickle in. I’m not sure what’s more
interesting about this fact, that such a tabloid actually broke a major world news story or
the revelation that they actually do real reporting sometimes rather than just sitting
around making stuff up.

100 Comments

  1. i know Barry Marshall his son and his grandson! I've been in there house, holiday house and farm! I'm from western australia same as him!

    Believe me if you will but i know him because im best friends with his grandson.

  2. Great job with the this one. This is a reminder to those that scientist although extremely helpful can be subject to irrationality. Man people especially my fellow Athiest seemed to have replaced religion with science and this is quite dangerous as you can see in this story. As Aristotle said we love our friends but, we must love the truth more. (Paraphrased)

  3. I have watched several of your videos where there are discrepancies between the transcript on the screen and what the narrator is saying.
    Out of curiosity, which one is generally the correct quote?

  4. Ulcers are wounds in the stomach wall antibiotics can stop further ulcers from occurring but they cant repair an ulcer wound. These wounds will be irritated and flare up.Once again it amazes me how you can be so thorough and miss a single key factor. Stress, spicy food IRRITATES the ulcer duh and therefore if a ulcer patient avoids spicy food and stress the ulcer wont bother them as much and if they don't .

  5. My late father suffered from ulcers. In 1965 he underwent a course of antibiotics for an unrelated condition and he noted that his ulcer went into remission for several years, and remarked to many in the family that he thought the antibiotics did the trick.

  6. I suffered from ulcers when I was in my teenage years. Fortunately, thanks to this man's research, I was able to get swift and effective treatment as soon as they were identified. Just the memory of them is enough to cause me a mild sensation of nausea, and several doctors have noted that I have a high pain threshold to begin with. I'm extremely grateful to dedicated people like Barry Marshall, who weren't afraid to challenge the establishment in order to benefit their patients.

  7. This guy is seriously a fucking hero. It's very sad that patients were continually told that their condition was psychosomatic.
    P.S. The Star sucks.

  8. Unfortunately, ignoring the mountain of evidence and believing only what the mainstream theories officially say is a symptom we still hold onto today when it comes to many things. Right now there is a mountain of evidence that the planet it warming and that sea levels will rise due to that warming, the warming can be proven to be our(humans) fault. Yet some in the world, a lot in the USA, feel none of it is true, including that sea levels are rising. Like get inland folks, really this is happening, right now. Same thing is going on in Egypt with the Sphinx, their is a minority of scientists geologists and archeologists that believe and have a mountain of evidence that the Spinx is much, much, much older than what we are told. There is a majority fighting this truth, ok so google when the Spinx was built, (they) say only 4500 yrs old, now google 800,000 yr old Spinx theory, just saying, seems like we have more to learn. This is just another example of science proving truths and humans trying to stop that truth, we cant let them stop knowledge, its our only true weapon! Love your channel keep it up!

  9. I have a co-worker who has stomach ulcers. I mentioned to him years ago that bacteria were now known to cause it but he blew me off. I still wonder if he is getting appropriate treatment. I assume that all doctors now know about this and proceed accordingly.

  10. In my mid 20s I developed an ulcer. It bled for a week. I had lost so much blood and wouldn't stop that I had to go to the emergency room. I was told that I had lost so much blood that I was just a day or two from dying. After an IV and getting a endoscopy they found a duodenal ulcer. They cauterized the ulcer, followed by a two week antibiotic course coupled with a PPI (prevacid) and a month diet of no coffee, sodas, spicy foods, or fruit juices… But that did it, it never came back… But what I like to know is how it started. Was this bacteria always present but just grew out of control? Or did I contracted it somehow? I suspect that I got it from a girlfriend who had an ulcer. Is that possible?

  11. Dr. Friedberg went on to become one of the world's most distinguished cardiologists and author of a standard textbook of cardiovascular medicine.

  12. I sourced this material about 8 years ago when I had a really bad ulcer, and my doctor wouldn't treat me with anything other than 'need less stress' and acid reducers. 3 GP's and none would accept it. This guy had already won his Nobel Prize and yet, I couldn't get anyone to believe it. I suffered for 7 months until something unrelated got me put on antibiotics for 3 weeks and boom, no more ulcer.

  13. How is this bacteria introduced to the victim? Is this a case where everyone has it in their system but some develop an imbalance?
    As a man who has suffered from kidney stones, I'd love to see a segment on Proteus mirabilis. It seems like the conditions of ulcers and kidney stones may have similar factors.

  14. I had a doctor give me the wrong medicine for months. I got an ulcer. Took a while to get rid of it. I had phantom pain for 2 years. Too many US doctors think every problem is in the stomach. There was no data to suggest my gut, other than my 2 fold increase in metabolism. But any good doctor will tell you that's the thyroid.

  15. My grandad and a colleague of mine have ulcers. I can only say they suffer AND they don't believe in results of this this research!

  16. I'd like to also point out from personally having h. Pylori that you don't always develop ulcers immediately, but may have gastritis instead, which is what I had in my case. They often times co-exist for sure, and I'm sure most people who have it may have both symptoms. However I just had gastritis, fortunately, but it's still alot of pain. I even thought it was stress related, until proven that it was h. Pylori. In any case, you have bad stomach pain, just go see the doctor immediately.

  17. I thought it was stress before watching this video…. now I understand why my doctor wanted to test me for bacteria in my stomach when I went to him with all the symptoms of ulcers……

  18. My stomach was in complete hell for 6 months without me knowing the reason. When I finally decided that it's something serious (yeah after 6 months) I went to see a doctor. He diagnosed me with poor digestion. He then prescribed some meds and asked me to do a few medical tests, the last one being the Urea Breath Test (after I mentioned the bug). Only then I was diagnosed with H. Pylori. Thankfully, I got my antibiotics for a week, felt better with time and I tested negative on the last test results. Bad experience.

  19. human i guess are lucky imagine if all bacteria were that clever like hylio to be able to live in that PH we were all screwed

  20. So much for the correctness of even widely accepted consensus. It should not be allowed in any branch of science. Or more accurately: If there is a consensus, one should suspect it, very much.

  21. Remember always question everything. Except never questions man mad global warming, or the hundreds of unfulfilled prophecies or you will be considered a Heretic by the scientific world.

  22. Very interesting story, i as a Greek person never heard before about Dr. John Lykoudis . I 've just read it and it's so saddening. And to also mention like so many people in the comments section : It's Helicobacter pylori (in Greek: ελικοβακτήριο του πυλωρού). It's a Greek word, like so many in medicine, so trust me.

  23. so stress and lack of sleep inhibit our immune systems, and pylori flourishes in our stomach, allowing ulcers to form. Stomach acid aggrevates the ulcers creating the levels of discomfort that accompany the condition. Dope.

  24. This is bullshit. He didn't prove the bacteria caused ulcers he prove the opposite. “I didn’t actually develop an ulcer, but …"
    Right so he didn't get an ulcer.
    http://www.nbcnews.com/id/9576387/ns/health-health_care/t/two-australians-win-nobel-prize-medicine/#.WMT0qX9lKiy
    He should give the prize back and the Nobel people hang their head in shame.

  25. . “I didn’t actually develop an ulcer, but …", Dr. Barry Marshall. So he proved himself wrong, take back the Nobel Prize!
    http://www.nbcnews.com/id/9576387/ns/health-health_care/t/two-australians-win-nobel-prize-medicine/#.WMT09H9lKiz

  26. to get ill you need infection AND a weakened immune system, he never got an ulcer, he felt ill for a while but his immune system dealt with it before it became more serious (ie ulcer) http://www.nbcnews.com/id/9576387/ns/health-health_care/t/two-australians-win-nobel-prize-medicine/#.WMT09H9lKiz

  27. I would like to point out that "The Star" newspaper shown at 9:00 is that of the Malaysian "The Star" daily .Unlike its UK counterpart (which is pure tabloid) the Malaysian version is a serious and well respected publication for its journalistic integrity.

  28. There is a few different subjects in the comments on this video probably as example where mainstream science fail. The sphinx which was attributed to the same pharaoh as the pyramid show sign of rain erosion (vertical wavy lines, similar to the shape of mountains in California desert) which could only be explained if the sphinx was carved from a rainy time period, when Egypt was almost like a tropical rain forest.

    Another comment was about chiropractors which are recognized by some medical insurance.Those who got helped are careful to add that only one specific chiropractor helped them, the other are just dangerous brute, risking to create more damage. I reckon that bone can be misaligned, but the major effect is endorphine, internally generated anti-pain from the life threatening "treatment".

    I would add to this list the shroud of turin. As soon as the carbon 14 test revealed the age, everybody forgot that it remain the oldest negative photograph in the world. Thanks science to help debunk all this Christians who believed that it represent a picture of the resurrection of an obscure Jew in Israel, but you still need to answer how that picture have been taken. And smile while doing it.

  29. As an Australian pharmacist I find this story fascinating and will often tell patients who are being treated for h. Pylori just how the heck teatime the came about!

  30. But, but, but … the Tums!! Think of the Tums. It's always Tums for the tummy.

    Which is to say that there may also be financial motivations.

  31. Quite a good story. I did not know I had come so close as I was treated for an H. pylori infection some where around the year 2000.

  32. As totally curable type II diabetes shows today, there's no money in the cure. Type II's can be off medication in 1-2 months, and cured with some simple dietary changes.

  33. Think Global Warming. Right or wrong, the politicians and most scientists have cut off debate…and they are probably wrong at least to some extent.

  34. Now I am curious. I had an ulcer for over a year that was documented in two different endoscopies. They took a biopsy on the second one and tested it but it was H. Pylori negative so they prescribed stomach acid inhibitors which helped. Was the ulcer initially caused by bacteria but couldn't heal due to excessive stomach acid? I feel like that doesn't make sense either.

  35. both theories are right. my ulcers were "non-bacterial" with other technical words. rx prilosec (2x o.t.c.) cured them. no antibiotics needed. wisdom of the ages and courage of the future will eventually conquer the largest of ills.

  36. Just so sad that there are so many powerful and egotistical people at the top of the medical system. This is Science, it's ok to be wrong and be corrected by new evidence and research. Science is an evolution of knowledge, not one that is set in stone.

  37. sounds kind of like the history of circumcision – except no one has broken through the wall of tradition on circ yet, with a scientific study showing that it does no good for most people and that it does some bad for all

  38. Whole things reminds me of the story of Sister Kenny who discovered an effective treatment for Polio but was ignored by the medical community for decades simply because of her lack of formal education. And the way "doctor's" for centuries stuck with innaccuarte Greek and Roman treatises over the evidence of their own eyes.

  39. I was living in a small town in Canada in mid 90s. I had been suffering from peptic ulcer for many years. Once I visited my FP. He told me about this guy and his method that had cured many of his patients. He asked me if I wanted to try. I immediately said yes. Thanks to these two brave drs. I am ulcer free since then ☺

  40. This story reminds me of a book i once read titled Tex about a teen boy, named Tex, whom lived with and was being cared for by his older brother. His older brother had developed stomach ulcers and the book suggested that he had developed the ulcers because of the stress associated with caring for his rebellious younger brother.

  41. What kind of antibiotics? Does any kind of antibiotic cure? I want to know it because when my stomach is empty part of my oesophagus feels like its burning and i think its ulcer.

  42. regarding the tabloid i have to say that even the village idiot can say something profound even if the only word he can say is no…

    Just force him into an army and have him be ordered to commit a warcrime and he will indeed say something profound…

    it literally means nothing since he may then just proceed to commit the warcrime because he does not know any better… that or pee his pants or both…

  43. So, why am I on Nexium and have been so for more than a decade for both my acid reflux and ulcers instead of having taken these antibiotics for the ulcers?

  44. Surviving MoldSurviving Mold by Dr Ritchie Shoemaker.

    Otter Bay books. 2010….

    Chapter 17. CFS and other medical mistakes.

    by Erik Johnson

    Page 441.

    Paging Dr. Semmelweis.

    This cannot be right. There must be something fundamentally flawed in the medical mindset.  Trying to look at this objectively, what right do doctors have to refuse to listen?  If a doctor claims to have any expertise on CFS, how could he be disinterested in hearing from a CFS prototype who was at the very inception of the syndrome?  If a historian wants to make sure they have their facts straight on how the syndrome began, what right do they have to turn away from my story?  One thing I know for sure. If any patient felt they were subject to this mold-effect and wanted information, they certainly would never get it from a doctor who refuses to accept information and input about its existence.  To my astonishment, I could see that the obstacle to getting doctors to listen is that they had defined "research" as strictly "Peer reviewed literature", and nothing more.

      In a kind of anti-science irony, nothing that has not already been written by someone with "researcher" on their name badge can ever get researched, for without credentials, it remains in limbo, removed from consideration. Without research, clues stay anecdotal, discarded for the very reason that they have not yet been researched.

    Not even the force of a publicity around a "new dynamic" of unexplained illness and a brand new syndrome was enough to break through this ironclad philosophy, and I was completely stymied.

    I started collecting 'rejection slips' from all the top-name CFS doctors and researchers.  Mention of my participation in the "Original CFS cohort" did open a few doors, yet I soon saw a pattern to the progression of events.. The moment I mentioned I had clues from "ground zero' and how much I had benefitted by mold avoidance, it was like watching the lights go out, and a door slam, shut. I learned to see by the look in their eyes, the exact moment when mild curiosity turned to concerted disinterest and conspicuous indifference.  It was the exact moment when doctors perceived I wasn't looking for their medicines, but was handing them a clue which demanded action on their part.  I gave them a chance to help their patients by telling them how I had helped myself, and they wanted no part of it..

      Many doctors like to think of themselves as patterned after the renowned diagnostician, Sir William Osler, who famously advised "Listen to the patient, he will tell you his diagnosis," yet no doctors were listening to me, not even when i attempted to tell them how important this was to my recover, and how it had affected others.

      I had started out passively, just quietly suggesting that I might have an interesting clue, but when this was easily brushed aside with mild dismissals, I tried an increasingly aggressive approach. The doctor response was absolutely commensurate with how hard I attempted to break through the blockade.  The harder I tried to tell them, the more they refused to listen, and the angrier they became.  It would become a shouting match, and nothing was accomplished.

      Even recounting the Semmelweis story and reminding them of Osler's words failed to make a difference. These doctors were bound and determined to never hear this clue.

  45. No one tells the British Medical Association what to do, particularly Aussie "quacks". That fact that this bacteria was discovered in the late 19th century should have been followed up by others. I have heard that much of the opposition was by the drug companies who wanted to keep re-prescribing Zantac endlessly, rather than a 2 week antibiotic course. This was the subject of a BBC Horizon programme which was excellent and shows how insular and closed minded many of the medical profession are.

  46. 3:03 I think you meant 1893; NOT 1983. Dyslexia's A BITCH! I totally understand, I deal with it daily as well. I'm Nuckin' Futs!

  47. Now that you know what causes ulcers check out this video and find out What Causes Lactose Intolerance:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6OyesEvI38

  48. This is not based on rigorous experiments to get the reproducible results: the essence of doing science. But based on prejudice and obsession rather than a hypothesis. The end result is this: H.pylorie not necessarily cause ulcers and gastritis. 60% people have it and they are doing fine! Rest in peace SCIENCE

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