Have you ever been so right, and known all along how right you were, that you would go to any length to prove your, well, rightness? You aren’t alone and we’ll prove it to you! (See what we did there?) But really, today we are talking about the doctor who drank bacteria just to prove how much he believed in his own smarts. Let’s get into it.
(image via: the inkl)
The year was 1984 and Australian scientist Neil Noakes mixed a tiny bit of bacteria with some lukewarm beef extract (yummy) and filled a beaker with the concoction. He then took that beaker and handed it to colleague gastroenterologist Barry Marshall, who threw the bacteria soup, as we’re calling it, down the hatch. A few days later Marshall started feeling nauseous and his mother noticed his breath was funky (a telltale sign of infection), then the vomiting started. A few days went by and Marshall took the antibiotic, the bacteria in his stomach died, and he won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine twenty years later. Worth it? Probably definitely.
For years Marshall watched as people fell ill from ulcers, resulting in the removal of their stomachs until they ultimately bled out and died. Marshall knew there had to be a simple solution to combatting the disease that was destroying the lives of roughly 10% of the adults at the time. Marshall was able to prove that Helicobacter pylori bacteria can cause acute gastritis which in turn may cause ulcers; he also realized earlier on how to combat ulcers which was by way of antibiotics. No matter how much he swore he knew, mainstream medicine still held tight to the idea that ulcers were simply caused by stress. So without the permission of the ethics committee, his wife, and/or his colleagues, Marshall decided to prove everyone wrong himself.
Up until this time patients with ulcers were treated with tranquilizers, anti-depressants, psychotherapy, and antacids, but, as you can imagine, the results were not great; however, once antibiotics were administered, the results started to get impressive. With no animals readily available to test, Marshall turned to, well, his own body. As one source describes, “from this moment on, the only good Helicobacter was a dead one and in 2005 he won the Nobel Prize with his former co-worker Robin Warren. Besides Helicobacter pylori, more than 1,000 other types of bacteria live on and in the human body, resulting in a total number of about 100 trillion bacteria.” (Source)