Barry Marshall cured ulcers.
After Robin Warren discovered Helicobacter pylori hanging out near stomach inflammation, he showed Marshall. Barry Marshall set about proving to himself that this inflamation was caused by the bacteria. Then he set about proving it to the rest of the world.
It was rough going. The stomach had a solid reputation as an inpenetrable acid-bag, where bacteria couldn't survive. Ulcers were blamed on the strong acid, which was thought to be pumping out of control because of stress.
One of the first challenges was isolating the bacteria. Marshall and Warren were sending biopsies to a lab, but the lab wasn't able to grow the bacteria in an incubator. For six months they tried, until, finally, someone got took a vacation. Over a four-day Easter weekend, the samples sat in the incubator, and when the lab re-opened, the Helicobacter were growing! The lab had previously only allowed the samples to grow for two days before calling it sterile and chucking the results.
Marshall and Warren had their hands on a cure, but they were having trouble getting other doctors to try it. They needed great proof, but they were working uphill. Doctors didn't consider ulcers a mystery, to most, it was a solved problem: too much acid.
To figure out if these bacteria were responsible for the ulcers, Marshall tried to infect and treat animals, but he was unsuccessful. The bacteria didn't infect the animals. In 1982, he earned his wings as a scientist-stuntman: He swallowed a glass of the bacteria, infecting himself. He fell ill within days, but cured himself with simple antibiotics.
The next year, their research was published in the Lancet: Warren JR, Marshall BJ. Unidentified curved bacilli in the stomach of patients with gastritis and peptic ulceration. Lancet 1984; i: 1310-1314.
Ulcers were, for hundreds of years, a disease that was treated, but not cured. All five of the worlds' major drug makers were working on better treatments. They filled a wheelbarrow full of treatments: Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid, Rolaids, Tums, Mylanta, Gas X, Alka Seltzer, Prilosec, Axid, Aciphex, Protonix, Prevacid, Mylanta, Nexium, Rolaids, Propulsid, Carafate, cimetidine, Maalox, Reglan, and Asacol.
In the year 2000, Prilosec was the most prescribed drug in the world, generating $6 billion that year in global sales.
SIX BILLION DOLLARS! A year! And that is just ONE of the medicines that has been rendered diseaseless by this new cure. I mean, fuck! Six billion dollars!! Can we throw this guy a party or something?
That's what Barry Marshall and Robin Warren have saved us from.
I should probably also mention that ulcers aren't just annoying, like a mosquito bite. They totally suck. For weeks.
Ulcer is the medical name for those nasty, incredibly painful open sores called canker sores. A gnawing in the stomach, which seems like it can only be addressed by eating, but that just hurts more when you eat. The symptoms include pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, including vomiting blood and shitting blood. Barry Marshall found a cure!
Ask anyone over 50 and chances are they have a friend who was ruined by an ulcer. Dear relatives of mine were reduced to eating rice cereal and baby food because they were nursing an ulcer.
Here is a list of some famous people who were cursed with an ulcer:
Pope John Paul II
Doctors who used to perform surgery on ulcers are literally FORGETTING HOW to perform the surgery, because they don't ever have to do them anymore! Barry Marshall found a cure!
Pictured: A box of Helidac Therapy, one therapy used to cure ulcer. Retail price - US$210.