Monday, October 03, 2005


The Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology has been awarded to Barry Marshall and J. Robin Warren. I believe that a Nobel for hard core medical research has been awarded after a long time. Marshall and Warren discovered the bacterium Helicobacter pylori that causes stomach ulcers, one of the most widespread ailments in the world.
I remember reading about Marshall many many years back in Reader's Digest. I was quite impressed by his story, in which he ingested a vial of the bacteria to prove the medical skeptics wrong; before that, nobody thought that bacteria could survive in the highly acidic lining of the stomach, and everyone was convinced that stress could be the only cause for ulcers (Since then, in general, scientists have discovered dozens of microorganisms that live in the most extreme environments on earth imaginable). Marshall drank the vile concoction and developed all the classic and extremely painful symptoms of ulcers. He is among the line of famous medical pioneers who infected themselves to prove a controversial theory about a disease, but as in this case, actually lived to tell the tale!


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