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NOBEL MEDICINE PRIZE TO TRIO FOR TREATMENT OF PARASITIC DISEASES

October 05, 2015 | Uhuruspirit

Nobel laureates in medicine - © Fredrik Sandberg, EPA



The 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded Monday to a trio of researchers for their discoveries into the treatment of devastating parasitic diseases that often affect the world's poorest.

The award was split between William C Campbell and Satoshi Omura, who won for advances into therapies for roundworm infections, and Youyou Tu, for her novel treatment against malaria, the Karolinska Institute said.

The consequences of their medical advancements are "immeasurable," it said in a statement.

Campbell was born in Ireland and is currently a research fellow emeritus at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. His co-recipient Omura is a microbiologist associated with Japan's Kitasato University.

Omura isolated strains of the Streptomyces bacteria that he had collected from soil samples taken in Japan to be analyzed for their activity against harmful microorganisms.

Campbell, working with Omura's samples, isolated a compound known as Avermectin from one of the cultures and demonstrated that it was remarkably efficient in combating parasites in domestic and farm animals, the statement said.

Avermectin had "radically lowered" incidences of river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, as well as other parasitic diseases.

More than 100 million people are afflicted with lymphatic filariasis, which is characterized by thread-like worms that live off the lymph system and causes chronic swelling, including elephantiasis.

"Omura and Campbell's contributions led to the discovery of a new class of drugs with extraordinary efficacy against parasitic diseases," the institute said.

Tu is the chief professor at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Her work, beginning in the 1960s, with herbal remedies first written about in ancient Chinese literature led to a breakthrough in the treatment of malaria.

Tu focused on the plant Artemisia annua. She extracted an active ingredient in the plant - Artemisinin - and purified it. Tests showed it had "unprecedented potency" in treating malaria, which infects close to 200 million people every year.

Malaria claims more than 450,000 lives each year, and most of the victims are children.

"The discoveries of Avermectin and Artemisinin have revolutionized therapy for patients suffering from devastating parasitic diseases," the institute said.

"Campbell, Omura and Tu have transformed the treatment of parasitic diseases. The global impact of their discoveries and the resulting benefit to mankind are immeasurable."

Last year, American John O'Keefe and Norwegians May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser won the medicine prize for the discovery of nerve cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain.

The 2015 recipients of prizes in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics will also be announced in the coming week.

With the exception of economics, the prizes were endowed by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel (1833-96), the inventor of dynamite.

This year the prizes are worth 8 million kronor (956,000 dollars).

In line with tradition, the awards are presented to recipients on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death.

- dpa



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