Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded to Scholars for Parasite-Fighting Therapies
Three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering “therapies that have revolutionized the treatment of some of the most devastating parasitic diseases,” the Nobel Committee announced on Monday.
William C. Campbell and Satoshi Omura won for developing a new drug, Avermectin, which has radically lowered the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis). They shared the prize with Youyou Tu, who discovered Artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced death rates 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 Nobel Committee said in a statement.
“The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable.”
Parasitic worms, which cause river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, among other diseases, afflict a third of the world’s population, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America. Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease called by single-cell parasites that invade red blood cells, kills more than 450,000 people a year, most of them children.
“After decades of limited progress in developing durable therapies for parasitic diseases, the discoveries by this year’s laureates radically changed the situation,” the Nobel Committee said.