Bacteria, not stress, causes ulcers, research shows
August 30, 1996
Web posted at: 1:15 a.m. EDT
From Correspondent Rhonda Rowland
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (CNN) -- Until recently, most
doctors blamed stomach ulcers on lifestyle habits -- what
you eat or how you handle stress. Now, doctors say, ulcers
aren't your fault and many can be cured.
Take the case of Terry Fleming-Ray. Like many prone to
ulcers, in her search for a diagnosis she traveled a
frustrating, bumpy road, going from one doctor to another. (219K AIFF or WAV sound)
After 10 years of suffering, Fleming-Ray finally discovered
what was causing the pain: an ulcer. But what was surprising
was the cause -- a bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori, or
Dr. Ben Gold of the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention says that bacteria -- easily treatable with
antibiotics -- is the culprit behind many "primary" ulcers in
adults and children.
A Virginia doctor, Barry Marshall, discovered the bacteria
cause nearly 15 years ago, but until recently, many doctors
"Doctors used to think they could manipulate the patient's
environment by telling him to stop being under stress, be a
little more laid back, go on a holiday," Marshall said. "But
really, none of those things made much difference."
For patients diagnosed with ulcers, antibiotic treatment is
prescribed. Fleming-Ray took antibiotics for 21 days.
"It's a lot of drugs," she says. "It's real intense. I was
taking probably about 20 pills a day."
Most people have side effects; Fleming-Ray says the drugs
made her feel ill.
Although doctors hope the antibiotics will cure ulcers,
that's not always possible. Fleming-Ray still takes acid-
lowering drugs from time to time.
The next step for researchers is to find out how people pick
up H.Pylori. As is true in Fleming-Ray's case, it tends to
run in families.
Now that they know about H.Pylori, researchers say it's only
a matter of time until they eradicate it.
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