Explaining the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2015

Adult worms lodge in lymphatic system and disrupt immune system. Causes abnormal enlargement of body parts, pain, severe disability and social stigma.

By: Agencies | Updated: October 6, 2015 10:13 am

 

About 1.23 billion in 58 countries are threatened — 80% of whom live in 10 countries, including India, Bangladesh and Nepal. About 1.23 billion in 58 countries are threatened — 80% of whom live in 10 countries, including India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

The diseases

Lymphatic Filariasis Commonly known as elephantiasis; tropical disease caused by transmission of parasites classified as nematodes (roundworms) of the family Filariodideato, to humans by mosquitoes. Adult worms lodge in lymphatic system and disrupt immune system. Causes abnormal enlargement of body parts, pain, severe disability and social stigma. Over 120 million people are infected, about 40 million disfigured or incapacitated. About 1.23 billion in 58 countries are threatened — 80% of whom live in 10 countries, including India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

River Blindness

Also known as onchocerciasis or Robles’ Disease; is caused by transmission of the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus by black flies of the genus Simulium. Vector lives near rivers, thus the name. Inside the host, the worms create larvae that travel to the skin, and infect other flies that bite the victim. Symptoms include severe itching, eruptions under the skin, and blindness. About 17-25 million are infected; some 0.8 million have some degree of vision loss. Most infections in sub-Saharan Africa.

Malaria

Caused by Plasmodium parasite that spreads through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitoes, which bite mainly between dusk and dawn. In 2013, malaria caused an estimated 5,84,000 deaths, with an uncertainty range of 3,67,000 to 7,55,000, mostly among African children. This is especially tragic because malaria is both preventable and curable. According to the latest estimates, released in December 2014, there were about 198 million cases of malaria in 2013. Mortality rates have fallen by 47% globally since 2000, and by 54% in the WHO African Region.

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PRIZE FAQs

THE NOMINATIONS

Come from experts including former Laureates, professors of medicine at universities across the world, Academy members. 380 were nominated this year.

WINNERS’ SELECTION

Is by the Nobel Assembly of 50 professors working at Karolinska Institutet. Evaluations are made by Nobel Committee, which is elected by the Nobel Assembly.

WINNERS MUST BE

Discoverers, since award is for discovery. There are no other criteria. Nominees can work anywhere, be of any age, and need not have a particular academic degree.

BUT IN THE END,

Winner(s) must have made a discovery that has changed the paradigm in an area of physiology or medicine, or the understanding of life or practice of medicine.

MOST AWARDED

Research areas are DNA and molecular biology. Watson and Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA (Nobel Prize, 1962) revolutionised life science. Earlier, infections research was most awarded.

MOST CRITICISED

Nobel in Physiology/Medicine was probably in 1949, to Egas Moniz for lobotomy. It had then appeared to be a great step forward in psychiatry, but side effects soon became apparent.

MOST POPULAR

Physiology/Medicine Nobel has probably been the 1945 Prize to Alexander Fleming, Ernst Boris Chain and Howard Florey for the discovery of penicillin.

(Answers by Göran K Hansson, Secretary of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, 2009-2015)

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