Three scientists awarded Nobel prize in medicine
Three scientists from Ireland, Japan and China - William C Campbell, Satoshi Ōmura and Youyou Tu - have been awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine. The Nobel committee stated, "The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable." The $960,000 prize will be split in half - one half going to Campbell and Ōmura, the other half going to Tu.
Campbell and Ōmura discover new drug
Ōmura collected soil samples from Japan, and isloated bacteria, one of which was Streptomyces avermitilis, which became the source for a new drug, Avermectin. Campbell followed up on Ōmura's discovery, demonstrating that Streptomyces avermitilis was very successful in eradicating parasites in domestic animals. Avermectin was further modified into Ivermectin, which was found to eradicate parasitic larvae, and hence, parasitic diseases in humans.
Ōmura and Campbell's contribution
Avermectin "radically lowered the incidence of River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis", according to the Nobel committee. Avermectin's contribution in the eradication of such parasitic diseases was described to be "immeasurable".
Dr.Tu's work on anti-malarial measures
Dr. Youyou Tu, who was sent to the Hainan province in China to see the impacts of malaria herself, pored over ancient Chinese remedies and collected 380 extracts from 200 plants. She identified an extract of the plant sweet wormwood or Artemisia annua - a component called Artemisinin, which proved to be terribly effective in eradicating malarial parasites at an early stage of development.
Tu's fight against malaria
Malaria causes over 450,000 annual deaths, and 3.4 billion people are at risk of contracting malaria. Tu's anti-malarial remedy, Artemisinin, saves more than 100,000 lives in Africa annually, and has reduced mortality from malaria by 20%.
About Dr. Youyou Tu
Dr. Youyou Tu was part of Project 523 - a secret drug discovery project set up in 1967 by Mao Zedong. She won the Lasker Prize in 2011, and became China's first Nobel laureate for medicine.