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Tu Youyou: One of Women China Most Proud of: Italian Media
   2015-10-07 20:03:43    Xinhua      Web Editor: Chen Xieyuan

The news of Chinese scientist Tu Youyou winning the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine drew much interest in Italy, especially for the role traditional Chinese medicine played in helping her find a cure for malaria.

Tu, born in 1930, is the first Chinese woman to win the Nobel Prize in science. She was awarded together with Irish William C. Campbell and Japanese Satoshi Omura for developing therapies against malaria and infections caused by roundworm parasites.

More specifically, the Chinese pharmacologist was recognized for discovering Artemisinin, a drug that "has significantly reduced the mortality rates among patients suffering from malaria," the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm wrote.

The scientist was congratulated by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang for her success, which "marked a great contribution of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to the cause of human health," AGI news agency highlighted on Tuesday.

Italy's main science magazine Focus dedicated an in-depth report to "the incredible story of the Chinese researcher that, starting from traditional medicine, found a way to eradicate the malaria plasmodium (parasite) at the early stage of its development."

Before the Nobel Prize, Tu Youyou had been assigned the Albert Lasker Award 2011 for living people who have made major contributions to medical sciences, the journal recalled.

"Before that, her name was almost unknown even among experts: a discretion that stemmed in part from her modesty, and in part from the historical period in which she led her studies," the journal wrote.

In the long article summing up Tu's long path towards the Nobel, the magazine stressed how a combination of "ancient remedies," skills, and a most stubborn dedication to research led to her developing the new malaria therapy.

"By late 1960s, Tu started a large screening of about 2,000 anti-malaria herbal remedies according to traditional Chinese medicine, and one of them was an extract from the plant Artemisia annua, which is endemic to the Chinese province of Hunan," it explained.

The Artemisia extract had proved quite successful against (malaria) fevers, but its results were inconsistent.

"At this moment, Tu had a Eureka moment," Focus' authors wrote.

Indeed, the researcher discovered a new way to successfully extract the active component from Artemisia annua, and this component proved highly efficient against malaria parasites first in animals and then in human beings.

Other major Italian outlets praised the choice made by the Swedish Academy on Monday.

"Medicine, a Nobel devoted to poor countries," leading La Repubblica newspaper highlighted.

"The three winners can well say they have saved millions of human lives: 100,000 per year in Africa only, according to the estimate of the Nobel committee."

"They have not been working with expensive tools and advanced technologies, but with perseverance, and using soil, herbs, and ancient Chinese texts," La Repubblica stressed.

With respect to the Chinese Nobel winner, Turin-based La Stampa daily remarked that "since Monday, she is one of the women of which China is most proud."

The newspaper cited an article Tu Youyou published on leading international journal of science Nature in 2011, which ended up with an insightful sentence.

"It is my dream that Chinese medicine will help us conquer life-threatening diseases worldwide, and people across the globe will enjoy its benefits for health promotion," Tu wrote at the time.

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