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Chapter 18 : Helicobacter from the Seas?
In the 20th century, medicine advanced on two parallel tracks: the progressive refinement of therapeutics and the increasing sophistication of surgery. Novel drugs replaced the surgeon's scalpel, but rarely did the reverse occur. Peptic ulcers and coronary heart disease are two outstanding examples. Since Barry Marshall and Robin Warren’s work on Helicobacter pylori in Perth, Australia, in 1982, gastrectomies for intractable peptic ulceration have been largely consigned to history. The researchers believe they may have located an important source of human infections. The paper published in Journal of Applied Microbiology describes a simple, quick, multistage DNA preparation method that the Italian group used to search for H. pylori in seawater. Meanwhile, 250 miles to the south of Cellini's sampling station, marine research provided further disquieting news about the health aspects of pathogens living in association with plankton. Working in the Straits of Messina, between the southernmost tip of mainland Italy and Sicily, microbiologists from the University of Messina found evidence that the colonization of zooplankton by organisms capable of causing human disease is a widespread phenomenon. This survey had several purposes, including an assessment of the occurrence of species of Campylobacter, Vibrio, and other genera in Italy's coastal waters, together with comparisons of free-living bacteria and those associated with zooplankton and of plankton-bound organisms with selected pathogens. One of the most significant findings was that not only Vibrio and Aeromonas spp. were linked with zooplankton, but so too were Escherichia coli, enterococci, and Campylobacter and Arcobacter spp.