Monday, August 9, 2010

Prof. Barry Marshall and Helicobacter Pylori

Prof. Barry Marshall (left) and Prof. Robin Warren - Nobel Laureate 2005 for Physiology and Medicine - "for their discovery of Helicobacter Pylori and its role on gastritis and Peptic Ulcer Disease"

When we first study about the pathology of Gastritis and Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD), we always came across "Helicobacter Pylori" in the etiology column. We all know that this is a Gram Negative spiral bacteria living in the stomach and duodenum, which causes inflammation in the stomach and duodenum and eventually causes Gastric Ulcer and Duodenal Ulcer respectively.

However, how many of you know about the history behind the discovery of H. Pylori 26 years ago? Who are the people discovered this bacteria? Unless you are interested in medical history and read constantly, I bet you don't know the answer.
Last Monday (2/8/2010), I have the honor to meet with the scientist cum gastroenterologist who discover the H.Pylori bacteria back in 1984. He is also the Nobel Laureate 2005 for Physiology and Medicine --> Prof. Dr. Barry Marshall.

Prof. Barry Marshall, together with 2 other scientists from University of Western Australia (UWA) were invited by Sunway University College, to deliver their inspiring talk and experience sharing to the students and faculty members there. And of course, I pay more attention on the talk by Prof. Barry Marshall.

First of all, let us go briefly about how Prof. Barry Marshall discover this bacteria and then won the Nobel Prize. Prof. Barry Marshall was invited by Prof. Robin Warren study on the cases where the stomach was found red in colour during autopsy and also spiral shaped bacteria was found during the histopathological studies. They then conduct a 100 persons research study, which according to him, it is easier to count the percentage!! (I think it was a joke!) One day, they successfully cultured the bacteria, and they were trying to infect in the animal models. Unfortunately, the human bacteria doesn't infect the animals. So, Prof. Barry Marshall took up the courages to drink the bacteria culture, and he ended up vomiting for 5 days. After that, his colleagues put an endoscope on him and found his gastric mucosa to be severely inflammed.

Prof. Barry Marshall and Prof. Robin attempted to publish their first paper on 1983, but was rejected for some commercial reasons behind (Gastric medication were huge income for pharmaceutical firm on that time). On 1994, they successfully proved that H. Pylori bacteria is the culprit behind the pathogenesis of gastritis and PUD, which fullfilled the criterias of Koch's Postulates. Then on 2005, both of these great physicians were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine.

First rejection letter from Journal Editorial (an encouragement for him to keep moving forward and keen on his research study) "the fruit of never giving up"

Prof Barry Marshall as the "Guinea-pig-doctor" who drink the H.Pylori culture and found the cause of PUD.

Prof. Barry Marshall felt ill and vomited for about 5 days after he drank the bacteria culture.

Repeated troublesome endoscopies motivate him to develop a simple non-invasive test which is available today - Urea Breath Test

During the sharing session titled "Before and After Nobel Prize", he encouraged us to put our passion and interest in science. He said, there are thousand times of failure and rejection behind a great success, just as his achievement for example, which he had face multiple criticism and rejections from colleagues and other parties. He even showed us his rejection letter from the Journal Editorial for his first attempt to publish the study.

Well, how does Helicobacter Pylori gets it's name? According to Prof. Barry Marshall, it was because there were times where he travelled with Helicopter quite frequently, so that "Helico" came his mind when he named the spiral shaped Gram Negative bacteria. (Although the meaning we learned in Microbiology, it is the helical and spiral shape of H.Pylori, so I think it was just a joke from him.)
One of the interesting thing he had said was that he compared himself with Prof. Robert Koch. Both of them seems to have some coincidence:
Prof. Robert Koch - successfully cultured the Koch Bacillus (tubercle bacillus) on 1884

successfully proved the Koch's Postulates on 1894

Awarded Nobel Prize on 1905

Prof. Barry Marshall - successfully cultured H. Pylori on 1984

successfully proved the etiological role of H. Pylori in PUD using the Koch's postulates on 1994.

Awarded Nobel Prize on 2005

During the sessions, he also shared with us about his current study on Oral H. Pylori Vaccines and harmless H.pylori as vector to deliver other vaccines into the gut of human beings.

It was a great day I ever had and it was a great honor to meet and listen to him. Meeting with wise men is better than 10 years study of books.

For more information, you can visit the Helicobacter Foundation and Prof. Barry Marshall on Nobel Laureate website.

1 comment:

  1. You can check out from the calendar of Academy Science of Malaysia for public lecture by Nobel Laureate.