Nobel Prize In Medicine Awarded To Scientists Fighting Parasitic Diseases

Their work has saved so many lives.

The 2015 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to three scientists for their work fighting against parasitic diseases. Parasitic diseases affect millions around the globe each year and most of the deaths occur in children under the age of 5. 

Half of the award was received by Youyou Tu "for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria."

Tu's career began to take off during the Vietnam War, when malaria was becoming a growing concern for soldiers. As the parasite was becoming resistant to current treatments, the Chinese government was seeking something new. It was during this time when Tu's research with plant extracts yielded the discovery of a compound now known as artemisinin.

The other half of the award was split between Satoshi Ōmura and William Campbell "for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites." Roundworm species can cause a variety of illnesses, primarily including river blindness and elephantiasis in tropical regions. 

Ōmura's work with soil samples turned up a discovery of bacteria that had potential to fight parasites. Campbell was able to continue working with these cultures and ultimately, the drug ivermectin was a result. This powerful anti-parasitic class of drugs has had profound impact within humans and animals.

In addition to receiving the most prestigious award in their field, the three scientists will also split a monetary prize of 8 million Swedish crowns, which is roughly equal to $950,000. The money will be split based on the percentage of the prize they were awarded. Thus, Tu will receive 50%, and Campbell and Ōmura will each receive 25%.

These two medications, discovered by these three amazing scientists, have positively affected the lives of millions of people around the globe, and severely increasing the lifespans of children who live in the areas most heavily affected by these parasites. Though there is still much work to be done to completely eliminate these diseases, their work has been a tremendous step forward in the fight.

The Prizes for Chemistry, Physics, Literature, and Peace will be announced later in the week.