The new drug Artemisinin has significantly reduced the mortality rates for patients suffering from Malaria. Sida has supported scientists assessing the effectiveness of Artemisinin based therapies through its bilateral research support to Tanzania and Vietnam and also contributed to the quest towards the elimination of the disease in Lake Victoria islands in Africa using mass administration of the drug.
Photo: WHO/TDR /Andy Craggs
The fight against the parasites of poverty are rewarded the Nobel Prize
This years Nobel Prize in medicine goes to research on treatment of parasitic diseases that affect millions of people mostly in poor countries. Sida has contributed to research on the same diseases in many ways and through different programmes, among them WHO’s special programme on tropical diseases TDR.
The global impact of the discoveries and benefit to mankind of this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine awardees is immeasurable. The Prize was granted to three scientists who discovered and identified the effect of compounds that led to the development of therapies that have revolutionized the treatment of some of the most devastating parasitic diseases including River Blindness (Onchocerciasis), Elephantiasis (Lymphatic Filariasis) and Malaria.
Dr. William C. Campbell and Professor Satoshi Ōmura contributed to the development of Avermectin, whose derivative Ivermectin is used in the control of River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis. Professor Youyou Tu identified and isolated the active component (Artemisinin) from the plant Artemisia annua that was highly effective against Malaria.
Sida’s role in fighting the parasites of poverty
Sida has through longstanding support to organisations such as UNICEF, UNDP, the World Bank and the WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) contributed to these discoveries. They were initiated at a time when there was a growing awareness of the crucial role of health to development and few international programmes provided support to strengthen research capacity to address tropical diseases.
WHO’s special programme on tropical diseases provided a novel institutional formula in which scientists from both developed and developing countries jointly addressed the world’s neglected parasitic diseases. These diseases are the causes of significant morbidity and mortality among the poorest members of societies. TDR has continued to support long-term development of research institutions in disease-endemic countries as well as high-level training of hundreds of scientists.
TDR led an innovative compound screening network that identified the potential of Ivermectin to treat River Blindness. Moreover, TDR’s early support to Chinese research into Artemisinin derivatives for Malaria treatment helped introduce an ancient remedy into global research agendas.
Through the Swedish Research Links programme which twins researchers from Sweden and low income countries and grants to Swedish development researchers Sida has contributed to the quest towards the elimination of Malaria in Lake Victoria islands in Africa using mass administration of Artemisinin.
More recently the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) has added neglected infectious diseases in its portfolio for the Horizon 2020 programme co-funded by European Member States including Sweden. Malaria, River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis (Elephantiasis) are part of this new portfolio of neglected infectious diseases.