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Nobel Prize For Physiology And Medicine 2015 Awarded For Research On Parasites

Last updated Oct. 6, 2015

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

The Nobel Committee states that the three awardees "have transformed the treatment of parasitic diseases. The global impact of their discoveries and the resulting benefit to mankind are immeasurable."

The Nobel Committee has announced that the 2015 Prize for Physiology and Medicine goes to research scientists working on malarial and roundworm parasites. The scientists sharing the awards are Youyou Tu of China, William C. Campbell of USA, and Satoshi Omura of Japan. According to the committee, “This year's Nobel Laureates have developed therapies that have revolutionized the treatment of some of the most devastating parasitic diseases.” While one-half of the Nobel Prize will be awarded to Prof. Tu, the other half will be equally shared between Dr. Omura and Dr. Campbell.

The following are some information about the scientists and their work:

Youyou Tu:

  • Prof. Youyou Tu is the Chief Professor at the China Academy Of Traditional Medicine in Beijing, and the award-winning work was conducted at the same institute.
  • Born in 1930, she worked on an alternative medicine for malaria when the parasite started developing resistance to traditional treatments with chloroquine.
  • She is credited with transforming malarial medicine when she explored traditional Chinese herbal medicine for an alternative and effective cure for malaria.
  • Prof. Tu extracted Artemisinin from a species of plant called Artemisia annua, whose medicinal values were known for centuries. Artemisinin kills malarial parasites at an early stage in their development and is used in combination with other medicines (to avoid drug resistance). The medicine has had “unprecedented success” in the treatment of the disease.

Satoshi Omura:

  • Dr. Satoshi Omura is Professor Emeritus at the Kitasato University in Tokyo, Japan, where he conducted the Nobel Prize-winning work.
  • Born in 1930, Dr. Omura has dedicated his life to finding cures for diseases using microorganisms.
  • He isolated novel species of Streptomyces bacteria from soil samples (near a golf course) and discovered that they had antimicrobial properties, which could be harvested for medicinal purposes.

William C Campbell:

  • Dr. William Campbell is Research Fellow Emeritus at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, USA. His Nobel Prize winning research was conducted when he worked at the Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research.
  • Born in 1930, Dr. Campbell expanded on Dr. Omura’s work, investigating the Streptomyces sp. isolated by him.
  • Dr. Campbell discovered a component from this bacterial species, called avermectin, to be extremely efficient against parasites in domestic and farm animals.
  • Avermectin has been developed into Ivermectin, which is a new class of drugs that has been instrumental worldwide in protecting people and animals from diseases such as river blindness and filariasis.

The Nobel Committee states that the three awardees "have transformed the treatment of parasitic diseases. The global impact of their discoveries and the resulting benefit to mankind are immeasurable."

Written by Mangala Sarkar, Ph.D.

Primary Reference

The 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine - Press Release. (n.d.). Retrieved October 5, 2015, from http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2015/press.html

DoveMed Resources

Malaria. (n.d.). Retrieved October 5, 2015, from http://www.dovemed.com/malaria/

River Blindness. (n.d.). Retrieved October 5, 2015, from http://www.dovemed.com/diseases-conditions/river-blindness/

Additional References

Nobel winner Youyou Tu got inspired by Chinese traditional medicine. (2015, October 5). Retrieved October 5, 2015, from http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/nobel-winner-youyou-tu-got-inspired-by-chinese-traditional-medicine/article7726508.ece

William C. Campbell - Interview. (n.d.). Retrieved October 5, 2015, from http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2015/campbell-interview.html

Satoshi Ōmura - Interview. (n.d.). Retrieved October 5, 2015, from http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2015/omura-interview.html

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Oct. 6, 2015
Last updated: Oct. 6, 2015