URI Group Gains Against Ulcers, Gastritis

This entry was posted by Thursday, 10 February, 2011
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Helicobacter pylori. Ever hear of it? It’s a bug that eats your gut.

I guess you could say it dines where you dine.

It wasn’t THAT long ago (1982) that two Australians, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, discovered that these little helicobacter pylori were involved with ulcers. An amazing, amazing thing, really, since everyone KNEW that ulcers were caused by stress. Bacteria couldn’t live in the stomach where it’s so acid.

That’s where we were wrong.

We now know that there are bugs (I’m being terminally cute here, I mean, microorganisms) which can live in places you wouldn’t believe. Hot, dry, cold, acidic, basic, radioactive. We call them “extremeophiles”. If they can live in yer gut, what next? Could they live on Mars?

In New York, even?


In fact, helicobacter pylori do inhabit the intestinal tract where they are associated with ulcers, gastritis, and cancer. The obvious question: if this stuff can be caused by microbes, can antibiotics help?


Which means that some people are getting cured.

If everything goes right.

Not so fast, though. Ever hear about antibiotic resistance? Every time we get our hopes up, there always seems to be a new disappointment. Finding out about helicobacter pylori was a great step. But efficiently rousting MISTER pylori from the gut?  Currently that means using several antibiotics as well as strong anti-acids.

Sometimes it works.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

Where to turn? How about the University of Rhode Island?


LAB ON A CHIP ( Mohammad Faghri, Dept Of Mechanical Engineering, URI )

Ever heard of the University of Rhode Island? It’s a public university in a state the size of a  parking lot.

URI seems to be having its own “Sputnik moment”, something ABC’s Christiane Amanpour (a URI graduate) calls ” a whole new era of technological, scientific.. progress”. Stanford and MIT have nothing to apologize for. Excellent centers of science and engineering. But they’re looking over their shoulders at “Rhody Tek”

A group of URI’s scientists have reduced the functionality of a medical testing lab onto a single chip. Drop of blood. Instant results. This technology  may wind up in apps for the iPhone. Android phones, too.

Another group’s figured out how to use saliva (instead of blood) to monitor immunosuppressive drugs. (Don’t see the big deal? I’m happy for you. I hope you never do.) And another group’s working on a patch for anti-tick vaccines. (I said the STATE’S small. I didn’t say the insects were.)

URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography, which had a research vessel on station monitoring the BP oil spill,  has hundreds of projects cooking.

(My wife? Maybe she works at this fine institution, maybe she doesn’t. I would NEVER let something like that influence my objectivity!!!!)

What’s URI got to do with h pylori?

A group headed by Dr. Steven Moss is  developing a vaccine against helicobactoer pylori. The vaccine is delivered nasally, by the way. Yet another “sniffer”. (The work’s in the Journal Vaccine.) In addition to the researchers from URI,  Moss is working with scientists from Brown University, Rhode Island Hospital, and Epivax, Inc..  In the  careful way that researchers talk, he calls this work “encouraging” but “preliminary”.

Which it is.

If everything works out, there’ll be a lot less miserable digestive tracts on this planet.


Image credit: Wikipedia commons.

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