Scientists Win Nobel Prize For Parasite Treatments

The Japan NewsSatoshi Omura, a distinguished professor emeritus of Kitasato University, has won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with William Campbell for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites, Sweden’s Karolinska Institute announced Monday.

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All Nobel prizes are special, but this one particularly so.

World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl said the award of a Nobel prize for the discovery was a great tribute to the contribution of Chinese science in fighting malaria.

Omura, 80, is from Tokyo’s Kitasato University.

Ivermectin, developed from avermectin, “has spared millions of people from river blindness, which typically strikes people in their prime”, said Colin Sutherland, reader in parasitology at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “In particular, parasitic diseases affect the world’s poorest populations and represent a huge barrier to improving human health and wellbeing”, the Nobel Assembly adds.

“Campbell’s work has had impact closer to home as well, because the drugs it led to have been “revolutionary” in the long-term prevention of heartworm in dogs and cats”, said Tim Yoshino, a UW-Madison pathobiological sciences professor.

A treatment for a genetic eye disease that can cause blindness may become the first gene therapy to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Equipped with extraordinary skills in developing unique methods for large-scale culturing and characterization of these bacteria, Ōmura isolated new strains of Streptomyces from soil samples and successfully cultured them in the laboratory”, the committee said.

She is credited with the discovery of an active compound in the leaves of the sweet wormwood plant – long used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Tu is the chief professor at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The compound, which was purified and named Avermectin, was later chemically modified to a more effective form called Ivermectin.

“The work was the top priority, so I was certainly willing to sacrifice my personal life”, she said.

This year’s Nobel laureates will share the prize of eight million Swedish kronor (about 950,000 or 855,000 euros).

Elephantiasis or lymphatic filariasis, is a mosquito-borne infection which causes grotesque and disfiguring swelling of the limbs. The pivotal role they played in China’s first Nobel Prize for medicine should be honoured and celebrated.

A member of the Nobel Prize committee says the work of the 2015 medicine laureates could help eliminate diseases affecting 3.4 billion people. “This also is an acknowledgment to the traditional Chinese medicine, for the work began with herbal medicine”. “This is indeed a glorious moment”, said Li Chenjian, a vice provost at prestigious Peking University.

Each victor will also get a diploma and a gold medal at the annual award ceremony on 10 December.

The economics prize will be announced next Monday and so far no date has been scheduled of announcement of the prize for the literature.

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Last year, the prize went to British-American researcher John O’Keefe and a Norwegian couple, Edvard Moser and May- Britt Moser, for discovering the brain’s “inner GPS” that helps people navigate.

Scientists share Nobel Prize for medicine for work on parasitic diseases