Posted on

Nobel Prize For Medicine Split For Anti-Parasitic Drug Discoveries

The Nobel prize for physiology and medicine were announced today and it has been split two ways for ground breaking work on parasitic diseases. Satoshi Omura and William C Campbell found a new way of tackling infections cause by roundworm parasites. They share the prize with Youyou Tu for her discovery of a therapy against malaria.

The Nobel committee said the work had changed the lives of millions of people affected by these diseases which are caused by parasites. Malaria, the mosquito borne disease, kills over 450,000 people eacmalaria_2695307bh year around the world with billions more at risk of catching the deadly infection.

Parasitic worms such as roundworm affect a third of the world’s population and cause a number of illnesses including lymphatic filariasis andriver blindness.

There were decades of limited progress fighting these diseases, there was a discover of two new drugs; ivermectin for lymphatic filariasis and river blindness and artemisinin for malaria was an absolute game changer.

Tackling malaria was failing, older drugs were losing their potency and the disease was on the rise. Prof Youyou Tu looked to herbal medicine to tackle the disease. She took an extract from the plant known as Artemisia annua, otherwise known as sweet wormwood, and began tasting it on malaria parasites. The extract was effective and had a high success rate of killing the parasites.

It is currently being used around the world in combination with other malaria medicines. In Africa alone it is saving more than 100,000 lives a year.

She is sharing the award with two men who found a treatment for roundworm. Their research led to a drug called ivermectin which is so successful that roundworm is on the brink of eradication.

Satoshi Ōmura, a Japanese microbiologist, focused on studying microbes in soil samples. He selected a number of promising candidates that he though might work as a weapon against diseases.

Irish-born William C Campbell, an expert in parasite biology working in the US, then explored these further and found one was remarkably efficient against parasites.

The active ingredient, avermectin, went on to become a drug known as ivermectin which is now used to treat river blindness and lymphatic filariasis.

River blindness is an eye and skin disease that ultimately leads to blindness. Lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis, causes painful swelling of the limbs. Both affect people living in some of the poorest countries in the world.

Posted on

Smoking In Cars With Children In Is Now Illegal

A new legislation has come in today for England and Wales banning people from smoking in cars carrying children. Healthcare professionals have welcomed the landmark legislation, but some argue that the new law is “unnecessary and unenforceable”. Here’s everything you need to know:

It is now an offence to smoke in any enclosed vehicle that is carrying anyone under 18. Drivers and passengers caught lighting up will face a £50 fixed penalty fine, reduced to £30 if paid within two weeks. The law applies to all private vehicles, except convertibles with the roof down. Electronic cigarettes are exempt from the ban and can be used within the car.

BJGH40 Woman smoking cigarette in car. Doctors in UK are calling for a ban of smoking in cars.

The law is aimed at protecting children from the harmful and long-lasting effects of passive smoking. The British Lung Foundation estimates that more than 430,000 children are exposed to second-hand smoke in cars every week. The chemicals present in second-hand smoke have been known to cause chest infections, asthma and cot death in children and health experts warn that the smoke can stay in the car for up to two and a half hours – even if a window is opened.

“Smoking just a single cigarette in a vehicle exposes children to high levels of air pollutants and cancer-causing chemicals and people often wrongly assume that opening a window, or letting in fresh air, will lessen the damage,” said England’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies.

Healthcare professionals have welcomed the move, describing it as “landmark” legislation. Ian Gray, principal policy officer for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, expects that there will be “very high levels of compliance” from drivers. “Hardly anyone can believe it is a good idea to smoke in your car when children are present.”

But some have criticised the law for intruding into citizens’ private space. The legislation is both “unnecessary and unenforceable,” says Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest. He argues that the overwhelming majority of smokers are aware of the risks of smoking in front of children and they don’t do it in front or near children. “If drivers are spotted smoking will they be stopped in case there’s a child in the back?” he asked. “The authorities, especially the police, must have better things to do.”