Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Born on this Day Stress-free Discovery

Barry Marshall - born on this day - discovered Helicobacter pylori bacterium was a major cause of stomach ulcers

30 September 2018

Stress-free Discovery

Lurking inside each of your organs is a whole world of life. Millions of bacteria mill around, helping, harming, or simply observing our body’s many processes. It’s easy to misattribute any influence these hidden passengers might have on other things. For example, for decades we thought peptic ulcers and stomach inflammation were largely caused by stress and lifestyle. But when a researcher in the early 1980s noticed groups of an unfamiliar bacteria in samples from patients’ stomachs, it opened the door to other possibilities. Barry Marshall, pictured and born on this day in 1951, delved deeper and discovered Helicobacter pylori (right), a bacterium that turned out to be very prevalent and the actual cause of peptic ulcers. With that revelation, which won Marshall a share of a 2015 Nobel Prize, these chronic and debilitating illnesses at once became treatable, and the crucial link between infection, inflammation, and ultimately cancer became clear.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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