This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Nobel Prize For Battling Parasites

The remarkable battle against death that we've been waging for the past two hundred years has lots of heroes and the Nobel Prize committee just recognized three of them, as reported in USAToday:
Three scientists from Ireland, Japan and China won the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for discoveries that helped doctors fight malaria and infections caused by roundworm parasites. 
The Nobel judges in Stockholm awarded the prestigious prize to Irish-born William Campbell, Satoshi Omura and of Japan and Tu Youyou — the first ever Chinese medicine laureate.
You will recall that there are three major types of communicable disease mechanisms--bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We most successfully battle bacterial infections with antibiotics, viruses with vaccinations, and parasites with (a) avoidance of the vector such as mosquitos; and/or (b) medicines to kill the parasite once it has attacked our body. 
Campbell and Omura were cited for discovering a drug that has helped lower the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, two diseases caused by parasitic worms.
Tu discovered a drug that has helped significantly reduce the mortality rates of malaria patients [the powerful malaria drug artemisinin--widely used throughout Africa, in particular]. 
The two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually,” the committee said. “The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immensurable.”
Two hundred years ago there was were essentially no places on earth with life expectancy above 40 years. Today, a quick glance at the PRB World Population Data Sheet shows that lowest life expectancy of any country is 49 years in Swaziland--a small African kingdom beset by a high incidence of HIV/AIDS. The global average is 71 years. The work of these three prize winners, among so many others over the years, is why we have made such progress. This is science at its best.

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