Combating ‘neglected’ diseases using nature’s apothecary
The Conversation - 10/05/2015
The 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology recognized three researchers who made pioneering contributions to the treatment of parasitic diseases, which affect tens of millions globally. Tu Youyou was recognized for her work on the anti-malarial drug artemisinin, a natural product derived from wormwood, with origins in ancient Chinese herbal medicine. Likewise, co-recipients William Campbell and Satoshi Omura were cited for their research on a treatment for roundworm using the drug ivermectin, a derivative of a natural product found in soil bacteria.
The research cited was initiated decades prior and has inspired many others to conduct cutting-edge research in the field of so-called neglected diseases – diseases where millions may be afflicted, yet few options for treatment are available. Based on a combination of factors, not the least of which is economics (it is estimated that the cost of developing a new drug and launching in the marketplace is upward of US$1 billion), new treatments for neglected diseases have severely lagged behind those for conventional diseases such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.