STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- Australians Barry J. Marshall and Robin Warren have won the 2005 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for showing that bacterial infection, not stress, was to blame for painful ulcers in the stomach and intestine.
The 1982 discovery transformed peptic ulcer disease from a chronic, frequently disabling condition to one that can be cured by a short regiment of Antibiotics and other medicines, the Nobel Prize committee said.
Thanks to their work, it has now been established that the bacterium Helicobacter pylori is the most common cause of ulcers.
"This 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 announcing the winners.
Many other diseases including Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and atherosclerosis happen because of chronic inflammation, the assembly said in its citation, adding that the Australians' discovery stimulated the search for microbes as possible reasons for other inflammations.
Warren, 68, a pathologist from Perth, Australia, "observed small curved bacteria colonizing the lower part of the stomach in about 50 percent of patients from which biopsies had been taken," the Nobel Assembly said. "He made the crucial observation that signs of inflammation were always present ... close to where the bacteria were seen."
Marshall, 54, became interested in Warren's findings and together they initiated a study of biopsies from 100 patients.
"After several attempts, Marshall succeeded in cultivating a hitherto unknown bacterial species -- later denoted Helicobacter pylori -- from several of these biopsies," the assembly said. "Together they found that the organism was present in almost all patients with gastric inflammation, duodenal ulcer or gastric ulcer."
Based on these results, they proposed that Helicobacter pylori is involved in causing these diseases. By culturing the bacterium, they were able to make studying it and the illnesses easier.
"In 1982, when this bacterium was discovered by Marshall and Warren, stress and lifestyle were considered the major causes of peptic ulcer disease," the assembly said in its citation. "It is now firmly established that Helicobacter pylori causes more than 90 percent of duodenal ulcers and up to 80 percent of gastric ulcers."
Marshall is a researcher at the University of Western Australia in Nedlands. The Nobel assembly listed Warren's last professional position as a pathologist at Royal Perth Hospital.
The coveted award honoring achievements in medical research opened this year's series of prize announcements. It will be followed by prizes for physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics.
The medicine prize is awarded by the Karolinska institute in Stockholm as stated in the will of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist who founded the prestigious awards in 1895.
The winners were picked by the institute's Nobel Assembly.
According to Heinz-Josef Lenz, M.D., professor of medicine, Keck School of Medicine, USC and the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, diet may have a major impact on people's risk of developing cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third most-common cause of cancer-related death in men and women in the nation.
The most important risk factor is red meat, particularly beef, he says. The countries with the highest beef consumption are the ones with the highest colon cancer risk. White meat such as chicken and pork don¹t seem to be associated with colon cancer risk.
Alcohol consumption is another major risk factor, particularly for women, Lenz notes. To reduce risk, people should limit themselves to one glass of wine per day.
Avoiding alcohol and decreasing intake of red meat can decrease your risk of colon cancer significantly, he says.
People should have rich sources of calcium intake, such as dairy products, daily. It is also important to include fiber-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables and reduce intake of fatty foods. One of the most powerful ways to reduce colon cancer development is vitamin D and calcium.
With easy adjustments in your diet, supplements such as calcium and modest exercise you can reduce your risk of colon cancer by more than 50 percent,² says Lenz.