The Man Who Tried to Give Himself An Ulcer… For Science
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The Man Who Tried to Give Himself An Ulcer… For Science

Here at SciShow, we don’t like to indulge
the idea of the ‘mad scientist.’ But sometimes scientists do live up to the
stereotype, and resort to doing things most of us would never do. Like experimenting on themselves to prove
a point. In 1984, an Australian doctor named Barry
Marshall infected himself with a bunch of dangerous bacteria on purpose. It sounds pretty stupid. Like, maybe don’t try that at home. But by doing that, he showed the world that
most stomach ulcers are actually an infectious disease and saved a lot of people’s lives. Ulcers are painful sores in the stomach or
upper part of the intestine, and they aren’t just uncomfortable. If they get bad enough, patients can start
bleeding, or their stomach can burst — things that can be deadly. Back in the 1970s, ulcers were most common
in middle-aged men who smoked and drank, and they seemed to run in families. Doctors assumed ulcers happened when people
made too much stomach acid, and were a product of hard-living and some bad luck in the gene
department. The typical advice was to slow down, watch
what you put into your body, and take some antacids. They also thought that the stomach was sterile
— completely bacteria-free. But in 1979, an Australian pathologist named
Robin Warren began to question that common wisdom. He was regularly seeing comma-shaped bacteria
in the samples from patients who had inflammation in their stomach tissue, or what’s called
gastritis. He and Barry Marshall set up a formal study
and found that nearly all of their ulcer patients were infected with the bacteria, too. They identified the bug as Helicobacter pylori,
and suspected that it might be the actual reason why people developed ulcers. But few physicians were convinced. The idea seemed absurd. How could bacteria even survive in the highly
acidic stomach? And if this was true, why hadn’t anyone
figured it out before? By 1984, Marshall was confident of his results,
and frustrated that other people weren’t convinced. He decided to do something radical. After making sure he had no H. pylori of his
own, he became his own guinea pig, and in one gulp of meat broth at 10 in the morning,
he swallowed a bunch of the bacteria on purpose. Sure enough, within a few days he wasn’t
feeling so great. He had indigestion, nausea, and bad breath
— and began vomiting. It wasn’t actually an ulcer, but it was
close. It was gastritis. And it showed that H. pylori wasn’t just
along for the ride. It was the problem. The bug was attacking the stomach lining,
and opening that tissue up to more damage from all the natural acid sloshing around
to break down food. The infection usually takes a while to cause
a problem, and the symptoms can be made worse by things like smoking and stress, which is
why older guys with less-than-stellar health records seemed to be the most susceptible. But without H. pylori, most people would never
get ulcers. Marshall and Warren went on to demonstrate
that certain drugs could get rid of H. pylori and cure ulcers, saving countless lives. The Australian duo was awarded the 2005 Nobel
prize in Medicine for their groundbreaking work. And their disco-era discovery turned out to
have an even bigger impact than anyone imagined. As more and more people got antibiotics to
cure their ulcers, cases of stomach cancer plummeted. Today, the World Health Organization recognizes
H. pylori as a carcinogen. The same damage the bacteria does to the lining
of the stomach with an ulcer also causes gastric cancer. It’s a huge public health victory — in
part, thanks to one man’s willingness to make himself sick. So, a bacteria that causes ulcers and cancer?! Definitely want to get rid of that, right? Well, it turns out that it’s not so simple. That’s because while most ulcers are caused
by H. pylori, most people with H. pylori don’t develop ulcers — and even fewer get cancer. Having it around might even help. H. pylori seems to protect people from developing
heartburn and from getting cancer in the esophagus and the upper stomach. Scientists aren’t totally sure why this
is the case, but they think the bacteria might help cut down on acid reflux. With less acid bathing those tissues, you’re
less likely to damage them and begin growing a tumor. Unfortunately, you can’t get the best of
both worlds. The strains of H. pylori that are the most
dangerous to the stomach are also the most protective to the esophagus. It’s one or the other! So, given that it’s a trade-off anyway,
doctors generally agree that it makes sense to leave the bacteria in the stomach unless
it starts causing a problem. And if it does, antibiotics to the rescue! Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow. To learn more about how the bacteria in your
gut affect your health, including how fecal transplants have become the hottest new treatment
for certain infections, check out our video about the microbiome.

100 thoughts on “The Man Who Tried to Give Himself An Ulcer… For Science

  1. "Antibiotics to the rescue"?? As if the evidence isn't already overwhelming that antibiotics are in decline and should rarely be taken.

  2. He didn't just "try" to give himself an ulcer..he did give him self an ulcer. If you can find the "60 Minutes" piece that CBS did on him and his work , I highly recommend it. They took over 20 minutes to tell his story. Its been over 10 years since that piece aired. Its all old news now. He's a hero in Australia ( were hes from ) . When he came to the United states with his treatment , medical science put it, and him through the ringer. Ultimately, they just threw up their hands and had to admit he was right. In 2005 , Dr. Barry J. Marshall and his colleague Robin Warren, won a Nobel Prize for their pioneering work in Ulcer Research. I could probably type for another 20 minutes. Instead… go find that 60 minutes piece. It tells the whole story.

  3. H. Pylori is horrible. I had it for over 2 years because my doctor stopped practicing and never got back my biopsy results to see if I was still sick. About 6 months later we found out I was still sick after months of illness and pain. Then it took 2 rounds of strong antibiotics because the bacteria were resistant.

  4. Hmmm, strange. Just few days ago was googling trough studies and articles about this bacteria. These little carcinogenious MF live inside most of the people, swimming inside gooey acid protection layer of our stomachs and eating it. When they gather in one place in big colonies and "rave-hard" – they eat all that stomach acid protective gooey tissue, making bleeding and inflammation in that "party" area. If that continues to happen then ulcers, gastritis or cancer could come in play.

    These little MF have already became immune to some antibiotics and they hide in such safe places of our digestive systems, where any of antibiotics could ever reach or harm them! Because of that it is so hard to get rid of them and even if you did, you'll be infected in just few months, again by food, sneeze, kiss or unwashed hands : Goddammit.

  5. "ulcers are sores that happen in the stomach or upper part of the intestine" I have ulcers in my colon! they can happen anywhere… even on the skin!

  6. I got diagnosed with H Pylori about 2 weeks ago and I just got antibiotics included in the triple therapy (Amoxicillin, Clarithromycin, and Omeprazole) after complaining about frequent heartburn and nausea. Has this happened to anyone and has anyone taken this treatment yet? Are the side effects really bad? How long did it take for you to feel better? Thanks

  7. I had h pylori twice the first one was the worst pain i've ever felt, now I'm fine but still have gastritis mild gastritis

  8. It could be said there is a thin line between Genius and insanity. That, of course, is a bold faced lie. The truth is, there is no difference, it is simply that the former's works are appreciated by mankind

  9. To this day, like 90% of people I've heard mention ulcers still think they're caused by stress. Where is the public health education?

  10. he didnt try, he was pretty damn sure he was gonna get ulcers from the bacteria. he did it to prove his point. this video is pointless purely on the fact that the title says that he tried. he didnt try, he discovered that the bacteria caused ulcers so when he was denied the scientific testing he gave himself ulcers so that they could properly treat ulcers. The title should be "The Man Who Gave Himself An Ulcer… For Science"

  11. so what happens to normal good bacteria in probiotics such as in crud, are they all destroyed in stomach acid before reaching the intestinal track, i know some are designed to withstand the acids.

  12. So 33 years ago people didn't believe that there was bacteria in the stomach?

    That puts the scientific research into a perspective of time.

  13. I just got a scope of my stomach today due to severe acid reflux. If the bacteria is present, I get two weeks of hard antibiotics that COMPLETELY clean you out. And I mean shits bigger than after chipotle.

  14. This proves how stupid are most people. You need a revolutionary to prove and do the right things.
    The video should include a photo of the maverick.

  15. if i had to choose between an ulcer and being hunted by dingos my whole life, i'd choose the ulcer too.

  16. Daniel Alcides Carrión, anyone? (I know Marshall's sacrifice saved people all over the world, but still)

  17. Actually, Barry infected himself because the pharmaceutical industry was mounting a multi-million campaign against his honesty and integrity. Tens of millions were spent in an attempt to save a billion dollar industry that only treated symptoms. Barry blew it out of the water! That is what I call a Profile in Courage.

  18. My father suffered badly from ulcers. The treatment his doctor prescribed back then (50 years ago) was called Frangula indigestion tablets, manufactured by Roter. The name later changed to Roter tablets, and Roter itself was later bought out. So now somebody else (it keeps changing) makes Roter tablets.

    One of the ingredients in Roter tablets is bismuth subnitrate (in some countries it's a different bismuth compound). What they didn't know back then, but know now, is that bismuth subdues H Pylori somewhat. So it turned out the doctor was right to prescribe it.

    Pepto Bismol also contains bismuth, as a subsalicylate. Which means it shares some properties with aspirin. Which may mean it is not as good for your stomach as it might be. Given a choice, if I thought I had an ulcer, I'd go with Roter. But they are a lot harder to find these days.

    Incidentally, Roter tablets (effective against the cause of ulcers) pretty much disappeared around the time the bigger drug companies started pushing proton pump inhibitors (which treat the symptoms but not the cause of ulcers). Obviously nothing more than a coincidence, right?

    BTW, there are studies which indicate there may be a correlation between PPIs and dementia. So you may prefer to use Roter or Pepto Bismol rather than PPIs.

  19. I had an ulcer once.
    Tip for all of the parents reading this: Don't let your 5 year old have 7 cans of soda in one day.

  20. I swear to god you guys have done this exact thing before……. Or one of the other popular channels have…. Come on….

  21. I am sure you guys have talked about this guy before (I seem to recall he had a partner who worked with him)?

  22. What's wild to me is that TO THIS DAY I will STILL talk to people that say like "all this stress is giving me an ulcer" like you really cannot reason with people once they get an idea in their heads.

  23. You do know that Dr Marshall is now looking at the idea of selling H Pylori dead as a means to help with allergies? He is getting close. The idea is that H Pylori seem to dampen down our immune system over responsiveness. He is an extremely smart dude. Funny that vaccinations intentionally increase immune responsiveness and we are finding more and more "diseases" are actually immune deficiency disorders.

  24. This is not based on rigorous experiments to get the reproducible results: the essence of doing science. But based on prejudice and obsession rather than a hypothesis. The end result is this: H.pylorie not necessarily cause ulcers and gastritis. 60% people have it and they are doing fine! Rest in peace SCIENCE

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