Nobel Prize Awarded for Drugs that Fight Parasitic Diseases

JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images
JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images

Three scientists who developed anti-parasitic drugs that have been used to successfully treat malaria, elephantiasis, and river blindness have won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

The discoveries, the Nobel Prize committee said in a press statement [PDF], "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."

Pharmaceutical chemist Youyou Tu, from the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Beijing, was awarded half the prize for discovering a novel therapy for malaria based on the plant Artemisia annua, which she found after conducting a large-scale screening of herbal remedies used to treat malaria-infected animals—and then revisiting the ancient literature on herbal medicine for further clues about Artemisia annua's potential. Tu developed a purification procedure to render the active agent Artemisinin from the plant. Artemisinin is the key ingredient in a new class of antimalarial agents that rapidly kill the malaria parasites at an early stage of their development.

Now used worldwide to combat a disease infecting nearly 200 million people a year, Artemisinin is estimated to reduce mortality from malaria by more than 20 percent overall and by more than 30 percent in children. In Africa alone, Tu's medicine saves more than 100,000 lives every year.

The other half of the prize was awarded to two researchers whose development of a drug to treat infections caused by roundworm parasites has nearly eradicated two illnesses. Microbiologist Satoshi Ōmura, of Kitasato University, Tokyo, and William C. Campbell, of New Jersey's Drew University, developed the drug Avermectin from the soil-dwelling bacteria genus Streptomyces. Ōmura isolated 50 new strains of Streptomyces for further analysis, and Campbell, an expert in parasite biology, showed that a bioactive agent from one Streptomyces culture was "remarkably efficient" against parasites in domestic and farm animals. Purified and named Avermectin—also known by Ivermectin, its chemically modified, more potent form—this agent is the key component in a class of drugs that kill parasite larvae.

Today Ivermectin is used globally to fight parasitic diseases, especially to treat the one-third of the world's population affected by parasitic worms in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Central and South America. It's been so effective against river blindness (onchocerciasis) and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) that "these diseases are on the verge of eradication, which would be a major feat in the medical history of humankind," as the committee noted.

7 Massage Guns That Are on Sale Right Now

Jawku/Actigun
Jawku/Actigun

Outdoor exercise is a big focus leading into summer, but as you begin to really tone and strengthen your muscles, you might notice some tough knots and soreness that you just can’t kick. Enter the post-workout massage gun—these bad boys are like having a deep-tissue masseuse by your side whenever you want. If you're looking to pick one up for yourself, check out these brands while they’re on sale.

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Actigun massage gun.
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Don't assume you need a professional masseur to provide relief—this massage gun offers 20 variable speeds and can adjust the output power on its own according to pressure. Can your human massage therapist do that?

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2. JAWKU Muscle Blaster V2 Cordless Percussion Massage Gun; $260 (13 percent off)

Jawku massaging gun.
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This cordless, five-speed massager uses a design that's aimed to increase blood flow, release stored lactic acid, and relieve sore muscles through various vibrations.

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Instant relief is an option with this massage tool, featuring five different attachments made to tackle any muscle group. You can squeeze in eight hours of massage time before you have to charge it again.

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4. Handheld Massage Gun for Deep Tissue Percussion; $75 (15 percent off)

Massage gun from Stackcommerce.
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With five replaceable heads and six speed settings, this massage gun can easily adapt to the location and intensity of your soreness. And since it lasts up to three hours per charge, you won't have to worry about constantly plugging it in.

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5. The Backmate Power Massager; $120 (19 percent off)

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Speed is the name of the game here. The Backmate Power Massager is designed for fast, effective relief through its ergonomic design. Fast doesn’t need to mean short, either. After the instant relief, you can stimulate and distract your nervous system for lasting pain relief.

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ZTech massage gun.
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This massage gun looks a lot like a power drill, and, similarly, you can adjust its design for the perfect fit with six interchangeable heads that target different muscle areas.

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How the Scientist Who Invented Ibuprofen Accidentally Discovered It Was Great for Hangovers

This man had too many dry martinis at a business lunch.
This man had too many dry martinis at a business lunch.
George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

When British pharmacologist Stewart Adams and his colleague John Nicholson began tinkering with various drug compounds in the 1950s, they were hoping to come up with a cure for rheumatoid arthritis—something with the anti-inflammatory effects of aspirin, but without the risk of allergic reaction or internal bleeding.

Though they never exactly cured rheumatoid arthritis, they did succeed in developing a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that greatly reduced pain of all kinds. In 1966, they patented their creation, which was first known as 2-(4-isobutylphenyl) propionic acid and later renamed ibuprofen. While originally approved as a prescription drug in the UK, it soon became clear ibuprofen was safer and more effective than other pain relievers. It eventually hit the market as an over-the-counter medication.

During that time, Adams conducted one last impromptu experiment with the drug, which took place far outside the lab and involved only a single participant: himself.

In 1971, Adams arrived in Moscow to speak at a pharmacology conference and spent the night before his scheduled appearance tossing back shots of vodka at a reception with the other attendees. When he awoke the next morning, he was greeted with a hammering headache. So, as Smithsonian.com reports, Adams tossed back 600 milligrams of ibuprofen.

“That was testing the drug in anger, if you like,” Adams told The Telegraph in 2007. “But I hoped it really could work magic.”

As anyone who has ever been in that situation can probably predict, the ibuprofen did work magic on Adams’s hangover. After that, according to The Washington Post, the pharmaceutical company Adams worked for began promoting the drug as a general painkiller, and people started to stumble upon its use as a miracle hangover cure.

“It's funny now,” Adams told The Telegraph. “But over the years so many people have told me that ibuprofen really works for them, and did I know it was so good for hangovers? Of course, I had to admit I did.”

[h/t Smithsonian.com]