The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015 has gone to three pioneers in the field of parasitic disease, one half jointly to Irish parasitologist William C. Campbell and Japanese microbiologist Satoshi Omura “for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites” and the other half to Chinese scientist Youyou Tu “for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria. She was inspired by Chinese traditional medicine to discover antimalarial drug artemisinin in the late 1960s and 1970s, one of the most important malaria drug that is now part of standard anti-malarial regimens and that has reduced death rates from the disease. She is the first China-based scientist to win a science Nobel.
Dr. Campbell is affiliated with Drew University in New Jersey while Dr. Omura from Japan’s Kitasato University was studying a group of soil bacteria called Streptomyces, which also gave the world the antibiotic streptomycin. Their work developed the drug Avermectin and later the closely related drug Ivermectin, a medicine that has nearly eradicated river blindness and radically reduced the incidence of filariasis, which can cause the disfiguring swelling of the lymph system in the legs and lower body known as elephantiasis. Arteminisin comes from a plant while Ivermectin was developed from a soil bacteria.
This year’s prize highlights the global acceptance of the importance of parasitic infections, and neglected tropical diseases in general, Together, the anti-parasite treatments resulting into benefit of mankind have improved the lives of 3.4 billion people around the world and is immeasurable said the Nobel committee.
Each recipient receives a medal, a diploma and a monetary award of 8 million Swedish kronor (about $960,000) . The award is presented in Stockholm at an annual ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death.