So, you started the work in ’81 and
published your preliminary findings in ’82, as I,… ’83. …’83. And then you, you were hunting for
an animal model to prove the point, as I understand. Tell me that story. Well, people are very skeptical about new discoveries in medicine. ’cause there’s one in the paper every single day. So, you have to really go through the rigor of a scientific proof and testing your hypothesis. So, we started off trying to make some animal models… …and we couldn’t infect rats and we couldn’t infect pigs… ….and that was a sort of a long story about the pig experiments and endoscopies on pigs etc. It’s not the most popular type of research… …and so after about two years I felt that I was getting nowhere,… …and the skeptics would also always say… …dr. Marshall whether people have ulcers or not they still have these bacteria,… …they must be commensals. So, I determined that, if I was correct,… …it was actually a crucial part of my career about to go off into private practice or stay in research. So, I did the experiment so if I drank the bacteria and I developed an ulcer then I’d be in research… …if I drank the bacteria and absolutely nothing happened… …and it didn’t cause an ulcer or gastritis or anything well then I was wrong… …and the past two years have totally wasted and I could go off into private practice. So, that was that drinking that bacteria was a turning point in my career. So, I was very happy when something happened… …and the beauty of it was that,… …although I was doing a self-experiment, so you’re very paranoid about objectivity and that type of thing… …the result of the experiment was actually dr. Warren looking at the biopsy,… …seeing the bacteria in the inflammation etc. So, that I had that back up, but I was always very paranoid about being objective… …when you are the only person doing something and you haven’t got any peer review,… …really who can tell you “Yes, well, that sounds right or not. And how long was it between drinking and getting symptoms? Well, I’d I remember I drank it on the
Tuesday and a few little gurgly feelings happened… …and I wasn’t sure wether anything happened… …and then I think five or six days later I started waking up at about five o’clock in the morning… …and running into the bathroom and throwing up. That’s quite quick. Yes, so, Helicobacter, once you catch it you know it builds up to full strength usually in three to five days… …and at that point you’ve got a lot of inflammation in the stomach and your acid secretion goes down to zero. So, when I was vomiting I was very puzzled there was just water coming up. Regurgitating if you like, and no acid in it. So immediately I knew something very weird was happening… …and it was only a few months later that I read the medical books from the turn of the century… …from William Osler & Co and they had described the syndrome of Achlorhydric or Low Acid Vomiting. How interesting. So, there you were with your litmus paper., were you? Oh yes, so we’ve moved from there luckily… …but it did tell you that peptic ulcer was an infectious disease… …and the reason nobody could remember catching Helicobacter… …was that they caught it when they were two or three years old… …and you know if little child vomits for a couple of days mum just gives him,… …you know, sugar water or something, soft drink and then he’s over it,… …but carries the Helicobacter for the rest of his or her life and in adulthood gets peptic ulcer. So, what did your wife say? I mean families play a key role in research because we give so much time to it. Well, I had a lot of very eccentric experiments on, and this is one of them… …and I hadn’t told her about the actual
drinking of the bacteria on that day,… …but it was in my thesis proposal a couple of years before,… …that the concept of human experiments had been raised if the animal stuff didn’t work,… …but I didn’t tell anybody. I was a bit embarrassed about it actually, the self experimenting. It’s not normally done. But and then I told her about it,… …and she said: “You did what?!” You know this was a terrible time in our lives worried and she just had another baby,… …so we had four children. She’d had a car accident, I was my working part-time, you know, it was a little chaos… …and in the middle of it I was unwell and throwing up. So, she said that I had to, she was worried about me in fact… …and she said I had to take antibiotics and terminate that experiment. I said please can I go to day 14… …and so on the on the 14th day I had further endoscopy lots of biopsies and took antibiotics. That was the end of the experiment,.. …but it turned out to be a key experiment… …and it would have been more convincing if there were a number of people. It was a proper clinical trial,… …but you know that those types of things
taking years of planning nowadays,… …ethics committees and you know thousands and thousands of dollars,… …and I would never have been able to have the resources to do it. Yes, that’s one of the things that worries me. How does one encourage young doctors to go into this? Why should they go into it, if it’s just such hard work? Well, I think you have to have the support process in the hospitals. So you have the clinical research centers in the United States, where I was, and it’s very, very nice. You’ve got these highly paid,… …brilliant people working there, looking for interesting things to come through the door. So, if I had that type of facility available I could have walked in there with a proposal… …and I said: “Okay Barry, well, let’s do it.” We’ll help you do the paperwork and you can come in for a week and you can do it in the hospital… …and we’ll take all kinds of measurements so it would have been… …yeah it was a great paper and was published and everything everybody loved it… ..but it would have been a bit more objective a bit more convincing perhaps… …if that had happened a might of it might have moved things faster,… …whereas I was I was concerned that people were dying from ulcers… …having, you know, surgery that you could never undo. Dying from perforated ulcers, all kinds of bleeding problems,… …that was going on on a daily basis in everybody’s Hospital… …and I was saying well I cannot wait for five or ten years to to convince people. I’ve got to find the shortest pathway to the proof so that people,… …and GPs particularly, just start treating patients with antibiotics it was just so easy. Absolutely, and that then takes us into the fact that you have developed the tests… …so that you can move it forward… …and that’s unusual for a doctor to do the basic research, the clinical research… …and then make it happen in the clinic. So, tell us a bit,… Well, the importance of those things,… …if you’ve got a clinical problem and it’s wasting your time,… …it means there’s a million other doctors around the world… …and it’s wasting three minutes a day for them. Maybe it’s some documentation or some test… …you’ve got to do something repetitive and unnecessary to get the information you need. As soon as that happens then there’s value there if you can save that three minutes. Three minutes is like millions of dollars and so if you just want to go after the money that’s the way to do it. As I saw it, I wanted to be independent, so that I could continue,… Once you get into clinical research it’s very addictive and it’s a lot of fun and it’s it’s very, very rewarding. I know a lot of people get into medicine and they find they’re doing the same thing day after day… …and you and they don’t have the facility to go and do some research or solve a problem in a new way. So, it’s finally you have the ultimate crown, the Nobel Prize. What was the best thing about getting the Nobel Prize? Well, it’s the best thing about it is being able to put my opinions across in forums like this… …and people have been interested in what
I’m saying. So, I’d say well I’ve over the years I’ve always done things a bit differently,… …and I say well for me that’s the right formula… …and I say well I can’t see the value in what I’m doing now. You know if it’s hard to actually measure
what use it is,… …but I’ve been doing this now for thirty years, this kind of, sort of.. …I don’t know what do you call it, attention deficit disorder approach to medicine, if you like. Try to keep a number of things on the go . Of any ten projects, probably only one of them’s an important one, a successful one. So you, you could try and test out a lot of different ideas at the same time… …and then follow where the successful strategy appears to be. So that’s what I’ve done in my life and the Nobel Prize’s allowed me to continue doing that. That’s the great thing about it. Fantastic. Thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you.