The institute had a long experience with chronic gastritis, which fell under the purview of the stomach and liver autoimmune disorders that had long been studied by Dr Ian Mackay and others in the Clinical Research Unit.
The first head of the Clinical Research Unit, Sir Ian Wood, invented the first gastric biopsy tube, and “his series of 1000 aspiration biopsies has “continued to be a rich source of research materials.”1
In 1973, working in the unit with Mackay, Dr Reg Strickland provides the first evidence that there may be different types of chronic gastritis – one an autoimmune disease, and the other of bacterial origin. He terms the groups A and B and suggests these diseases might arise from different stimuli.
The A group had autoantibodies directed to a cell within the inner lining of the stomach, called the parietal cell. However the B group was negative for autoantibodies.
As Sir Gustav Nossal explains: “In this group [the B group] the inflammation was concentrated in that portion of the stomach that lies closest to the duodenum, which is also the area in which most gastric ulcers occur.
“With rare prescience, Strickland suggested that the B type might be bacterial in origin, or perhaps some other external irritant. This preceded by many years the pivotal, Nobel Prize-winning discovery by Robin Warren and Barry Marshall in Perth that type B gastritis and both gastric and duodenal peptic ulcers were indeed due to a bacterium, names Helicobacter pylori, which could be readily cured by antibiotics.”
1 Nossal G, Diversity and Discovery: the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute 1965-1996. Miegunyah Press, p157