This years Nobel Prize in Medicine has been announced to be given to three people for their respective researches in the field of parasitic infectious diseases.
The first half of the Nobel Prize in Medicine was announced to be given to with one half jointly to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites. William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura discovered a new drug, Avermectin, the derivatives of which have radically lowered the incidence of River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis, as well as showing efficacy against an expanding number of other parasitic diseases.
The second half of the Nobel Prize in Medicine was announced to be awarded to Youyou Tu for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria. Youyou Tu discovered Artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced the mortality rates for patients suffering from Malaria.
Satoshi Ōmura searched for novel strains of Streptomyces bacteria as a source for new bioactive compounds. He isolated microbes from soil samples in Japan, cultured them in the laboratory (inset to left) and characterized many thousands of Streptomyces cultures. From those, he selected around 50 cultures that appeared most promising, and one of these cultures later turned out to be Streptomyces avermitilis (inset to right), the source of Avermectin.
William C. Campbell discovered that one of Ōmura”s Streptomyces cultures was very effective in killing off parasites and the active compound, Avermectin, was purified. Avermectin was further modified to Ivermectin, which turned out to be highly effective in both animals and humans against a variety of parasites, including those that cause River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis.
Youyou Tu on the other hand searched ancient literature on herbal medicine in her quest to develop novel malaria therapies. The plant Artemisia annua turned out to be an interesting candidate, and Tu developed a purification procedure, which rendered the active agent, Artemisinin, a drug that is remarkably effective against Malaria. Artemisinin is used in all Malaria-ridden parts of the world. When used in combination therapy, it is estimated to reduce mortality from Malaria by more than 20% overall and by more than 30% in children.
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