2015 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine Awarded for Work to Treat Parasitic Diseaeses—Including River Blindness, Elephantiasis, and Malaria—Discoveries of Avermectin and Artemisinin Have Changed the World

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has today (Monday, October 5) awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, with one half going jointly to William C. Campbell, Ph.D., and Satoshi Ōmura, Ph.D., for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites, and the other half going to Youyou Tu, for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against malaria diseases caused by parasites that have plagued humankind for millennia and constitute a major global health problem. In particular, parasitic diseases affect the world’s poorest populations and represent a huge barrier to improving human health and wellbeing. This year’s Nobel Laureates have developed therapies that have revolutionized the treatment of some of the most devastating parasitic diseases. Dr. Campbell and Dr. Ōmura discovered a new drug, avermectin, the derivatives of which have radically lowered the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis (often called elephantiasis), as well as showing efficacy against an expanding number of other parasitic diseases. Dr. Tu discovered artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced the mortality rates for patients suffering from malaria. 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. Parasites cause devastating diseases We live in a biologically complex world, which is populated not only by humans and other large animals, but also by a plethora of other organisms, some of which are harmful or deadly to us.
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