But I thought biologists were too “close-minded?”

Australians Barry J. Marshall and Robin Warren won the 2005 Nobel Prize in medicine Monday for showing that bacterial infection, not stress, was to blame for painful ulcers in the stomach and intestine.

The Australians’ idea was “very much against prevailing knowledge and dogma because it was thought that peptic ulcer disease was the result of stress and lifestyle,” Staffan Normark, a member of the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska institute, said at a news conference.

This is a great example of how science works. These men proposed a hypothesis that was pretty far outside the mainstream at the time (even though there had been some antecdotal and published evidence regarding antibiotic treatment and resolution of ulcers). They tested it; they gathered evidence to support it; they published their results in the literature; and eventually, they overturned the prevailing notion that ulcers were caused by stress and diet based on the experimental evidence. They didn’t rely on think tanks, or mission statements, or pressure from supporters in high places in order to have their ideas accepted–they won over their audience on the merits of their research. Was it easy? From interviews I’ve read, hell no. But they perservered, others joined them in uncovering evidence that supported their hypothesis, and today, they’ve been rewarded with one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive. Congratulations, gentlemen, and let this serve as yet another example of scientists embracing new ideas when they’re backed by quality research.

Comments

  1. #1 Heinz J. Mensing
    February 8, 2007

    We should learn from this (re-)discovery: Just 2 years after Warren & Marshall’s first paper on their work 1983 in “The Lancet” Immunologist Prof. Alan Ebringer and co-workers from London published their ?first paper on the possible cause of rheumatoid arthritis/RA in that same top medical journal. But up to 2007 rheumatologists seem to ignore the meanwhile extensive research on RA “obviously” caused by P.mirabilis (probably in the upper urinary tract) in genetically predisposed individuals, by a basic mechanism termed “molecular mimicry”. This finally explains why so many more women get RA, despite equal distribution of the predisposition among the sexes.
    I find this complete disregard of extremely important work very strange; one possible explanation is the billions earned each year in the “care” and “treatment” of RA patients.

    Even more disgusting is the fact that the cause of multiple sclerosis/MS (at least in most cases if it is a heterogenous disease) has been ignored by neurologists – and victims, as it seems – for decades. The original working hypothesis (a spirochetosis transmitted by a vector, possibly a hard tick) dates back to about 1906, that is a century. Close to a proof had been provided by the Prof. Gabriel Steiner in the thirties, at that time at the Univ. of Heidelberg/Germany; a Jew from Ulm/Germany like Einstein he flew to the USA in 1936 and died in Michigan in 1965, as far as I know.
    Right now I have no time to go on telling this sad story, and more details of the rheumatologists’ ignorance of Ebringer’s work, e.g. in their “explanations” of the impressive effectiveness of cheap antibiotics like mino- and doxycycline in (early) RA; maybe some later time…