May 14, 2007
Dr. Barry Marshall has always been a breakthrough researcher. In 2005, he won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for a discovery that had a major impact in the field.
"Probably one of the most important discoveries in gastrology and medicine within the last 50 years," said Dr. Fabio Cominelli, chief of the gastrology division at UVa.
"The Nobel Prize is awarded for something that is new and important. I supposed if it's really new, then it starts coming in from left field and it's something that's not expected," said Marshall.
Left field is exactly where he was when Marshall started looking into what causes stomach conditions such as ulcers. Medical experts at that time though it was stress, but Marshall knew it was something much different than that.
"We observed that most people with ulcers had the bacteria," he said. "One thing led to another, and pretty soon we were treating people with antibiotics and sure enough, all the patients with the worse possible stomach ulcers were getting better if we eradicated the bacteria out of their stomach."
But Marshall still had problems getting the traditional science world to back his hypothesis. With no animal to test on, he knew he would have to infect a human being with the bacteria. That is when he took matters into his own hands.
"I decided it had to be me. I drank the bacteria and developed this illness, which was the precursor to developing an ulcer," said Marshall.
After catching the disease, he knew his theory had worked. By the late 90s, the FDA had approved his method, giving people worldwide a better cure for this disease.
"He's a very innovative scientist, a very innovative investigator, and I think that's why he looked at this disease from a different point of view and he was able to find the right answer," said Cominelli.