Researchers win Nobel Medicine Prize for discovering cause of ulcers

Bethesda, Maryland (Oct. 3, 2005) Australian gastroenterologist Barry Marshall and pathologist Robin Warren were awarded the 2005 Nobel Medicine Prize today for discovering that the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is responsible for stomach inflammation and ulcers. Each year, there are nearly half a million people newly diagnosed with ulcers in the U.S., an annual cost to the health care system of $2 billion.

"This discovery has revolutionized our understanding of ulcer disease and gives us insight into potential causes of stomach cancer," says American Gastroenterological Association President David A. Peura, MD. "Defining the role of H. Pylori in the development of ulcers and stomach inflammation has not only allowed gastroenterologists to offer more effective treatments to patients, but it has also allowed for the development of more targeted, effective therapies."

The Nobel Assembly of Stockholm's Karolinska Institute awarded $1.29 million to Marshall and Warren for their 1982 discovery that went against the established causes of ulcers. For years, ulcers were considered functions of acid in the stomach or a results of stress and lifestyle factors. While the idea of bacteria being present in the stomach has been around for more than 20 years, much of the medical community believed that bacteria could not survive in the stomach's hostile environment. These researchers showed that H. pylori survives in such an environment and leads to ulcer disease. The findings led to the conclusion that once the bacteria is eradicated, ulcer disease is cured.

More information about peptic ulcer disease is available in the Patient Center of the AGA Web site at www.gastro.org/ulcers.


Contact: Kimberly Wise
American Gastroenterological Association

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