For a number of years we've believed that stomach ulcers have been caused by our own irregular lifestyles and food habits... not until the breakthrough discovery by two Australian Researchers that stomach ulcers are caused by Bacterium H. Pylori. The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has awarded yesterday, the 2005 Nobel Prize in the field of Medicine to Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren of Australia for their discovery of "the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease".
Hitherto, being believed that peptic ulcers are caused by the individual's lifestyle, it may be hard to believe that almost 90% of duodenal ulcers and up to 80% of gastric ulcers is caused by this bacterium Helicobacter Pylori.
Helicobacter pylori is found to be a spiral-shaped Gram-negative bacterium that colonizes the stomach in about 50% of all humans. In countries with high socio-economic standards infection is considerably less common than in developing countries where virtually everyone may be infected.Infection is typically contracted in early childhood, frequently by transmission from mother to child, and the bacteria may remain in the stomach for the rest of the person's life. It was also found that, the bacterium itself is extremely variable, and strains differ markedly in many aspects, such as adherence to the gastric mucosa and ability to provoke inflammation. Even in a single infected individual all bacteria are not identical, and during the course of chronic infection bacteria adapt to the changing conditions in the stomach with time.
Even though the bacterium is found in as many individuals, the infection is asymptomatic and only 10-15% of infected individuals will experience peptic ulcer disease some time in their life. Till date, we've only treated the symptoms of ulcer with antacids to control the increase in acidity. After this breakthrough discovery, if you have an ulcer, you'd have to treat it with antibiotics rather than antacids.