Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded to Anti-Parasitic Trio

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Nobel Prize in MedicineThe discovery of drugs that combat malaria and other parasitic diseases have won a trio of international scientists the Nobel Prize in medicine. The winners are William Campbell of Ireland, Satoshi Omura of Japan, and Youyou Tu of China—the country’s first medical Nobel laureate.

Campbell and Omura were awarded for discovering ivermectin, a drug that is used to combat the roundworm-caused diseases of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis. Tu was awarded because she discovered artemisinin, a drug capable of significantly reducing malaria’s mortality rate.

River blindness is an eye-and-skin disease caused by roundworm infection. It ultimately blinds victims, as the name suggests. Lymphatic filariasis causes swelling in the limbs and genitals that can cause severe disfigurement or disability. Roundworm infections mostly occur in Africa and Asia. The ivermectin drug that resulted from Campbell and Omura’s microbial research has been so effective that roundworm diseases are currently considered to be on the verge of extinction.

Tu found that a component of sweet wormwood, later dubbed artemisinin, was highly effective at killing malaria parasites. With increasing drug resistance being a major obstacle to eliminating the disease, a new and effective treatment was welcomed. Her Nobel Prize is also the first awarded to a Chinese scientist for work conducted within that country.

The winners of the Nobel Prize are awarded a diploma and gold medal along with eight million Swedish kronor (about USD$961,237). Half the money will go to Tu and the other half will be split between Campbell and Omura. Winners who stay overnight are also delivered breakfast in bed the next morning by the winner of Sweden’s Santa Lucia pageant, who wears the festival’s traditional outfit.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine: Trio Win for Malaria, Parasite Research,” CBC News web site, last updated October 5, 2015; http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/nobel-prize-medicine-1.3256585.
Lewis, J.R., “Sophomore Selected To Play Santa Lucia,” The Harvard Crimson web site, November 6, 1998, http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1998/11/6/sophomore-selected-to-play-santa-lucia/.
Roberts, M., “Nobel Prize for anti-parasite drug discoveries,” BBC News web site, October 5, 2015; http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34441744.

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