William Campbell, a native of Ramelton, Co Donegal, has jointly won this year’s Nobel Prize for his work in discovering Avermectin, a drug that has greatly improved the treatment of infections caused by roundworm parasites in both humans and animals.
Mr Campbell and Satoshi Omura, a Japanese microbiologist who aided in the discovery of Avermectin, won half of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine, with the other half awarded to China’s Youyou Tu for discoveries related to malaria.
Mr Campbell is an expert in parasite biology and works in the US. Having acquired the cultures of a group of bacteria known as streptomyces from his Japanese colleague, Campbell explored their efficiency and was able to show that a component from one of the cultures was remarkably efficient against parasites in domestic and farm animals.
The bioactive agent was purified and named Avermectin, which was subsequently chemically modified to a more effective compound called Ivermectin – a parasiticide regularly used on cattle and swine.
The compound was also developed into effective treatments against parasitic diseases that affect humans, particularly among the world’s poorest populations. It radically lowered the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, as well as showing efficacy against an expanding number of other parasitic diseases.