Nobel committee awards medicine prize to 3 scientists who tackled parasitic diseases

The winners of the 2015 Nobel Prize in medicine
(Image credit: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

On Monday, the Nobel committee awarded the annual prize for medicine to three scientists who came up with treatments for parasitic diseases. William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura were jointly awarded the Nobel for their foundational role in developing Avermectin, a drug that has successfully treated river blindness and elephantiasis, two illnesses caused by parasitic roundworms; Youyou Tu was recognized for developing Artemisinin, a drug that has sharply reduced deaths 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. "The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable."

Ōmura, a Japanese microbiologist, isolated about 50 strains of the bacteria group Streptomyces, which Irish-born parasitic biology expert Campbell narrowed down to one strain especially effective at killing parasites in animals. Parasitic worms sicken about a third of the world's population, especially in sub-Sarahan Africa, Latin America, and South Asia. Tu, from China, researched traditional Chinese medicines to come up with a derivative of wormwood that is now used as a primary treament for malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that kills more than 450,00 people a year. For more information, read the Nobel committee's announcement.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.