Scientists win Nobel prize for river blindness discovery

October 2015

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A photo of two hands. In one hand there are three tablets.

Scientists William C Campbell and Satoshi Omura have been awarded the Nobel prize for medicine for their discovery of a way to treat river blindness.

Campbell and Omura together discovered a group of compounds known as avermectins, the derivatives of which are used to treat and prevent river blindness. Their research led to the creation of ivermectin (brand name Mectizan®) which is used to treat the disease in developing countries.

Sightsavers CEO Dr Caroline Harper said: “This is such exciting news and so well deserved. The drug these scientists discovered is used now to treat a number of neglected tropical diseases and we are close to eliminating several of them. Thanks to them, and to [pharmaceutical company] Merck, which provides Mectizan® free of charge, we have the capability to protect the billion people in the world who are at risk.

“Over the next five to ten years, if we have the funding, we should be able to rid the world of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis. We at Sightsavers have been working on these programmes for many years, and are so pleased that the Nobel prize committee has recognised how important they are.”

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