Dr. Barry Marshall, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize for proving that stomach cancer and ulcers were caused by a bacteria back in the 1980s wrote:
They [previous doctors] made the connection between ulcers, stress, and acid without any proper double-blind studies, but it fit in with what everybody thought...
I presented that work [proving ulcers were caused by a bacteria] at the annual meeting of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in Perth. That was my first experience of people being totally skeptical. To gastroenterologists, the concept of a germ causing ulcers was like saying that the Earth is flat. After that I realized my paper was going to have difficulty being accepted. You think, “It’s science; it’s got to be accepted.” But it’s not an absolute given. The idea was too weird.Interviewer: Then you and Robin Warren wrote letters to The Lancet.
Robin’s letter described the bacteria and the fact that they were quite common in people. My letter described the history of these bacteria over the past 100 years. We both knew that we were standing at the edge of a fantastic discovery. At the bottom of my letter I said the bacteria were candidates for the cause of ulcers and stomach cancer.That letter must have provoked an uproar.
It didn’t. In fact, our letters were so weird that they almost didn’t get published...
During that year  Robin and I wrote the full paper. But everything was rejected. Whenever we presented our stuff to gastroenterologists, we got the same campaign of negativism. I had this discovery that could undermine a $3 billion industry, not just the drugs but the entire field of endoscopy. Every gastroenterologist was doing 20 or 30 patients a week who might have ulcers, and 25 percent of them would. Because it was a recurring disease that you could never cure, the patients kept coming back. And here I was handing it on a platter to the infectious-disease guys...
It was desperate: I saw people who were almost dying from bleeding ulcers, and I knew all they needed was some antibiotics, but they weren’t my patients. So a patient would sit there bleeding away, taking the acid blockers, and the next morning the bed would be empty. I would ask, “Where did he go?” He’s in the surgical ward; he’s had his stomach removed...What led up to your most famous and most dangerous experiment, testing your theory on yourself?
I had a patient with gastritis. I got the bacteria and cultured them, then worked out which antibiotics could kill his infection in the lab—in this case, bismuth plus metronidazole. I treated the patient and did an endoscopy to make sure his infection was gone. After that I swizzled the organisms around in a cloudy broth and drank it the next morning. My stomach gurgled, and after five days I started waking up in the morning saying, “Oh, I don’t feel good,” and I’d run in the bathroom and vomit. Once I got it off my stomach, I would be good enough to go to work, although I was feeling tired and not sleeping so well. After 10 days I had an endoscopy that showed the bacteria were everywhere. There was all this inflammation, and gastritis had developed...You published a synthesis of this work in The Medical Journal of Australia in 1985. Then did people change their thinking?
No, it sat there as a hypothesis for another 10 years. Some patients heard about it, but gastroenterologists still would not treat them with antibiotics. Instead, they would focus on the possible complications of antibiotics. By 1985 I could cure just about everybody, and patients were coming to me in secret—for instance, airline pilots who didn’t want to let anyone know that they had an ulcer.So how did you finally convince the medical community?
I didn’t understand it at the time, but Procter & Gamble [the maker of Pepto-Bismol] was the largest client of Hill & Knowlton, the public relations company. After I came to work in the States, publicity would come out. Stories had titles like “Guinea-Pig Doctor Experiments on Self and Cures Ulcer,” and Reader’s Digest and the National Enquirer covered it. Our credibility might have dropped a bit, but interest in our work built. Whenever someone said, “Oh, Dr. Marshall, it’s not proven,” I’d say: “Well, there’s a lot at stake here. People are dying from peptic ulcers. We need to accelerate the process.” And ultimately, the NIH and FDA did that. They fast-tracked a lot of this knowledge into the United States and said to the journals: “We can’t wait for you guys to conduct these wonderful, perfect studies. We’re going to move forward and get the news out.” That happened quite quickly in the end. Between 1993 and 1996, the whole country changed color.