Prescription medicine pill bottle and syringe on cardiogram printout

This year’s Nobel prize for medicine has gone to Irish-born William Campbell, Satoshi Omura of Japan and Tu Youyou

The first-ever Chinese medicine laureate. Campbell and Omura were cited for discovering avermectin, derivatives of which have helped lower the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, two diseases caused by parasitic worms that affect millions of people in Africa and Asia.

Tu discovered artemisinin, a drug that has helped significantly reduce the mortality rates of malaria patients. The committee said:“The two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annuall. The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable.” River blindness is an eye and skin disease that ultimately leads to blindness. About 90 per cent of the disease occurs in Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Lymphatic filariasis can lead to swelling of the limbs and genitals, called elephantiasis, and it’s primarily a threat in Africa and Asia.

The WHO says 120 million people are infected with the disease, with about 40 million disfigured and incapacitated. William Campbell is a research fellow emeritus at Drew University in Madison,New Jersey, in the United States. Satoshi is a professor emeritus at Kitasato University in Japan and is from the central prefecture of Yamanashi. Tu is chief professor at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine.