This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015 was awarded with one half jointly to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites and the other half to Youyou Tu for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria.
William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura found a new way of tackling infections caused by roundworm parasites.
Youyou Tu shares the prize for her discovery of a therapy against malaria.
The Nobel committee said the work had changed the lives of hundreds of millions of people affected by these diseases.
The mosquito-borne disease malaria kills more than 450,000 people each year around the world, with billions more at risk of catching the infection.
Parasitic worms affect a third of the world’s population and cause a number of illnesses, including river blindness and lymphatic filariasis.
After decades of limited progress, the discovery of the two new drugs – ivermectin for river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, and artemisinin for malaria – was a game-changer.
Efforts to eradicate malaria had been failing – older drugs were losing their potency – and the disease was on the rise.
Prof. Youyou Tu, who in the 1960s had recently graduated from the Pharmacy Department at Beijing Medical University, looked to traditional herbal medicine to find a potential therapy.
She took an extract from the plant called Artemisia annua, or sweet wormwood, and began testing it on malaria parasites.
The component, later called artemisinin, was highly effective at killing them.
Today, the drug is used around the world in combination with other malaria medicines. In Africa alone, this is saving more than 100,000 lives every year.
Youyou Tu is the 13th woman to win this Nobel Prize.
She shares the award with two men who found a treatment for another parasite – roundworm.
Their research led to the development of a drug called ivermectin, which is so successful that roundworm diseases are on the verge of eradication.
Satoshi Ōmura, a Japanese microbiologist, focused on studying microbes in soil samples. He selected a number of promising candidates that he though might work as a weapon against diseases.
Irish-born William C. Campbell, an expert in parasite biology working in the US, then explored these further and found one was remarkably efficient against parasites.
The active ingredient, avermectin, went on to become a drug known as ivermectin which is now used to treat river blindness and lymphatic filariasis.
River blindness is an eye and skin disease that ultimately leads to blindness. Lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis, causes painful swelling of the limbs. Both affect people living in some of the poorest countries in the world.
The Nobel committee said: “The two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually.
“The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable.”
Satoshi Omura told Japanese broadcaster NHK: “I have learned so much from microorganisms and I have depended on them, so I would much rather give the prize to microorganisms.
“This is kind of a low-profile research area, but microorganisms are extremely important for humans. They can be our partners. I hope the area gets more attention because of the prize so that it can further contribute to human beings.”
Naomi Campbell took to Twitter just hours after Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to add to her thoughts on the occasion.
Naomi Campbell, 44, appeared to fall foul of autocorrect, spelling the Pakistani teenager’s name “malaria” and drawing an instant chorus of dismay from eagle-eyed Twitter users.
Malala Yousafzai, 17, became the youngest person in history to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, October 10.
Naomi Campbell took to Twitter just hours after Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to add to her thoughts on the occasion
Naomi Campbell’s offending tweet, which was still on the site more than seven hours after being posted, also included a link to an Instagram picture of the women’s education campaigner.
On the picture Malala Yousafzai is quoted: “I speak not for myself but for those without a voice – those who have fought for their right to live in peace.”
But once again the supermodel misspelt her name, tagging @malaria, an unknown Instagram user, in the post instead of the new Nobel laureate.
The super model later tweeted a correction, claiming her phone “spat out” the wrong spelling of Malala Yousafzai’s name.
The peace prize was awarded jointly to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthifrom India, “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.
A new study suggests that warmer temperatures are causing malaria to spread to higher altitudes.
US researchers from the University of Michigan have found that people living in the highlands of Africa and South America are at an increased risk of catching the mosquito-borne disease during hotter years.
They believe that temperature rises in the future could result in millions of additional cases in some areas.
The research is published in the journal Science.
Prof. Mercedes Pascual, who carried out the research, said: “The impact in terms of increasing the risk of exposure to disease is very large.”
Areas at higher altitudes have traditionally provided a haven from this devastating disease.
Both the malaria parasite and the mosquito that carries it struggle to cope with the cooler air.
Prof. Mercedes Pascual said: “The risk of the disease decreases with altitude and this is why historically people have settled in these higher regions.”
Warmer temperatures are causing malaria to spread to higher altitudes
But the scientists say the disease is entering new regions that had previously been malaria-free.
To investigate, scientists looked at densely populated areas in the highlands of Colombia and Ethiopia, where there are detailed records of both temperature and malaria cases from the 1990s to 2005.
They found that in warmer years, malaria shifted higher into the mountains, while in cooler years it was limited to lower elevations.
“This expansion could in a sense account for a substantial part of the increase of cases we have already observed in these areas,” said Prof. Mercedes Pascual.
The team believes that rising temperatures could cause a further spread.
In Ethiopia, where nearly half of the population live at an altitude of between 5,250ft and 7,875ft, the scientists believe there could be many more cases.
“We have estimated that, based on the distribution of malaria with altitude, a 1C rise in temperature could lead to an additional three million cases in under-15-year-olds per year,” said Prof. Mercedes Pascual.
The team believes that because people living in areas that have never been exposed to malaria are particularly vulnerable to the disease, attempts to stop the spread should be focused on areas at the edge of the spread. The disease is easier to control there than at lower altitudes where it has already established.
According to WHO estimates, there were about 207 million cases of malaria in 2012 and an estimated 627,000 deaths. Most deaths occur among children living in Africa.
According US researchers, exposure to a once widely used pesticide, DDT, may increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
A study, published in JAMA Neurology, showed patients with Alzheimer’s had four times as much DDT lingering in the body as healthy people.
Some countries still use the pesticide to control malaria.
DDT was a massively successful pesticide, initially used to control malaria at the end of World War Two and then to protect crops in commercial agriculture.
However, there were questions about its impact on human health and wider environmental concerns, particularly for predators.
Exposure to DDT may increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease
It was banned in the US in 1972 and in many other countries. But the World Health Organization (WHO) still recommends using DDT to keep malaria in check.
DDT also lingers in the human body where it is broken down into DDE.
The team at Rutgers University and Emory University tested levels of DDE in the blood of 86 people with Alzheimer’s disease and compared the results with 79 healthy people of a similar age and background.
The results showed those with Alzheimer’s had 3.8 times the level of DDE.
However, the picture is not clear-cut. Some healthy people had high levels of DDE while some with Alzheimer’s had low levels. Alzheimer’s also predates the use of DDT.
The researchers believe the chemical is increasing the chance of Alzheimer’s and may be involved in the development of amyloid plaques in the brain, a hallmark of the disease, which contribute to the death of brain cells.
Giant drug-maker GlaxoSmithKline is seeking regulatory approval for RTS,S, the world’s first malaria vaccine after trial data showed that it had cut the number of cases in African children.
Experts say that they are optimistic about the possibility of the world’s first vaccine after the trial results.
Malaria, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease, kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide every year.
Scientists say an effective vaccine is key to attempts to eradicate it.
RTS,S (or Mosquirix ) was found to have almost halved the number of malaria cases in young children in the trial and to have reduced by about 25% the number of malaria cases in infants.
GSK is developing RTS,S with the non-profit Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), supported by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Many millions of malaria cases fill the wards of our hospitals,” said Halidou Tinto, a lead investigator on the RTS,S trial from Burkina Faso.
GSK is seeking regulatory approval for RTS,S, the world’s first malaria vaccine
“Progress is being made with bed nets and other measures, but we need more tools to battle this terrible disease.”
The malaria trial was Africa’s largest-ever clinical trial involving almost 15,500 children in seven countries.
The findings were presented at a medical meeting in Durban, South Africa.
“Based on these data, GSK now intends to submit, in 2014, a regulatory application to the European Medicines Agency [EMA],” GSK said in a statement.
GSK has been developing the vaccine for three decades.
The statement said that the hope now is that the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) may recommend the use of the RTS,S vaccine from as early as 2015 if EMA drugs regulators back its licence application.
Testing showed that 18 months after vaccination, children aged five to 17 months had a 46% reduction in the risk of clinical malaria compared to unvaccinated contemporaries.
However, in infants aged six to 12 weeks at the time of vaccination, there was only a 27% reduction in risk.
A spokeswoman for GSK told the AFP news agency that the company would file its application to the EMA under a process aimed at facilitating new drugs for poorer countries.
Malaria remains the leading cause of illness and death around the globe
Worldwide, a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds
The parasitic disease, carried by mosquitoes, kills around 800,000 people a year
90% of all malaria cases are in sub-Saharan Africa
Making malaria vaccine available for routine use will be a major hallmark
The vaccine will only be part of the solution to tackling this preventable infection
Bed nets, insect repellents, malaria drugs and targeted killing of mosquito breeding grounds are also key, say experts [youtube J6r9UIWGvW4]