Friday, October 09, 2015
The Nobel Prize in Medicine was this year shared by three scientists who used modern laboratory techniques to develop anti-parasitic drugs that were hidden in herbs and soil for many years.
On Monday, the Nobel Assembly announced that the prestigious prize was awarded to Irish-born Dr William Campbell, and Japanese Dr Satoshi Omura, who shared a half of the prize. The other recipient was Chinese Dr Youyou Tu.
|Dr. Henry Lowe|
Doctors Campbell and Omura developed Avermectin, from which they derived Ivermectin — a medicine that is very effective against river blindness and filariasis, which can cause swelling of the lymph system in the legs and lower body known as elephantiasis.
Dr Tu, a pharmacologist and chief professor at China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, was inspired by Chinese traditional medicine in isolating Artemisinin, a drug that is now part of standard anti-malarial regimens.
"These two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually. The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable," said the Nobel Assembly.
Diseases, doctors will tell you, are caused by a variety of parasites, one group being parasitic worms which are estimated to afflict one-third of the world's population, and are particularly prevalent in Central and South America, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.
River blindness and lymphatic filariasis are two diseases caused by parasitic worms. River blindness, or Onchocerciasis, ultimately leads to blindness due to chronic inflammation in the cornea. Lymphatic filariasis, which afflicts more than 100 million people, causes chronic swelling and leads to life-long stigmatising and disabling clinical symptoms, including elephantiasis or lymphedema, and scrotal hydrocele. more