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Ulcer bug breakthrough

  • Key Stage 3
  • GCSE
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Case study
Topic: Infectious disease

Two Australians won the 2005 Nobel Prize in medicine for proving that peptic ulcers are caused by bacteria. Their ideas were once met with skepticism. It was common knowledge that stress causes ulcers; and how could bacteria survive in stomach acid? Eventually, one of the pair lost his patience. He swallowed the bacteria, suffered the symptoms and then cured himself with antibiotics. The activity gets students to analyse quotes from interested parties. They compose a news report on the prizewinners and their work.

Published: 2nd November 2005
Reviews & Comments: 9

Learning objectives

Students will learn
� that peptic ulcers are caused by bacteria, and can usually be cured by antibiotics
� that scientists may have to overcome hostile reactions in order to get their research accepted

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Diseases caused by microbes can be cured using antibiotics.

11 – 14(KS3)
Microbes and disease QCA 8C
• some micro-organisms can cause disease.
• antibiotics kill bacteria or prevent their growth.
• a theory can be used to predict behaviour which can be tested by collecting evidence.
• scientific advances depend on creative thought and interpretation of evidence.

GCSE specifications
AQA Core Science
Unit B1a Human biology: 11.4 What causes infectious diseases and how can our bodies defend themselves against them?
• Explain how the treatment of disease has changed as a result of increased understanding of the action of antibiotics and immunity.
• Microorganisms that cause infectious disease are called pathogens.
Edexcel Core Science
Unit B1b Topic 4: Use, Misuse and Abuse
• Antibiotics are used against diseases caused by microorganisms.
Gateway Core Science
Module B1 Understanding Ourselves: Item B1c: Keeping Healthy
• State that antibiotics can be used to treat bacterial and fungal infections.
Twenty First Century Core Science
Module B2 Keeping Healthy: 2.3 What are antibiotics, and why can they become less effective?
• Recall that we can kill bacteria using chemicals called antibiotics.

Running the activity

Show page 1 (either projected or as an OHT), to outline the story and set the task.Then give small groups copies of pages 2, 3 and 4.Tell students to study the quotes from the interested parties on pages 2 and 3. They need to use the information to fill in the template on page 4, which is the outline of a TV news report on the story.

To clarify: a peptic ulcer is an area of damage to the lining of the stomach or duodenum. An ulcer in the stomach is called a gastric ulcer or stomach ulcer; one in the duodenum is called a duodenal ulcer. Duodenal ulcers affect mainly younger men; stomach ulcers are more rare and affect mainly elderly people.

News links

Nobel Prize Press Release
This press release from the Nobel Prize organisation gives clear but detailed information about the scientists' work. There is also a useful diagram showing how bacteria cause peptic ulcers. Appropriate for teacher background information or very confident readers.
New Scientist
This article describes the scientists' work in a slightly more lively way, but is again only accessible to more confident readers.
A fact sheet about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of peptic ulcer disease.
This entertaining news report focuses on the reactions of the prizewinners to the news of their win.
A summary of the controversial evidence that bacteria may cause some cancers.
Evidence for a link between gum disease bacteria, and the incidence of heart disease.

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

KS3 Science

Jun 16th, 2011

5 Star

Used with low ability year 8 group who actually filmed their news programmes. They loved it. Couldn't recommend it enough.

Reviewer: Fauzia Cullasy

Ulcer bug breakthrough review

Jan 25th, 2009

5 Star

My year 10 triple science class enjoyed this activity as they were given the opportunity to film their news reports when they had written them.

Reviewer: Amy Fletcher

How Science Works

May 18th, 2008

5 Star

I used the title page as an image to have up on my prompted discussion.
I did not use the rest of the materials available as I already had obtained mine from else where ,namely the teacher resource exchange http://
However, the materials availble looked excellent.

Reviewer: Diana Antoniadis


Mar 17th, 2008

5 Star

very good activity for year 10. simple and straight forward, engaging and easy to understand the facts of biofuels. Will recomend to anyone teaching the new gcse sylabus to year 10 pupils.

Reviewer: George Tikum

javelin jeopardy

Jun 4th, 2007

4 Star

Spent a gloriously sunny afternoon on the last period before breaking up for half term building paper aeroplanes to their hearts content and throwing them outside with pupose!!. Bottom year 9 class even managed to meet the objectives and enjoy the lesson! many thanks

Reviewer: Kelly Susan

ulcerbug breakthrough

Feb 26th, 2007

4 Star

i used this as in introduction into antibiotics with year 10 middle ability group who did very well with it. Year 9n post mock sats were not so enthuastic, they could have been tired??

Reviewer: sreeja bhaskaran

Ulcer bug breakthrough

Jan 12th, 2007

5 Star

I was doubtful as to how my very low ability Yr 10 students could cope with the literacy. However, with a bit of support, even my "science is boring" (how could they say that!) group found doing the news report really good fun. We put on a suitable piece of music as their 'newsround' type theme tune and as the music was faded they launched into their presentations. With the timer on view they were also marked on the 40 second timings. Really worthwhile trying this when you study microbes etc.

Reviewer: Julie Bradley


Oct 5th, 2006

5 Star

Used with some Year 11 students - they had a ball - I was in hysterics watching them present..... very good activity as it is and lead into other work well

Reviewer: Jo Standley

Ulcer Bug Breakthrough

Jun 27th, 2006

4 Star

I used this activity with my Yr 9 group, post-SATs, to run alongside an investigation into antibiotics. They really loved the activity, and really enjoyed presenting news reports to the rest of the class. Some of them were so good I wish I had a video recorder! Well worth a try. Could be adapted so pupils write newspaper reports if they're not big into class room speaking.

Reviewer: Kathryn Weeks