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Health Highlights: Oct. 5, 2015

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded for Parasitic Disease Treatment Breakthroughs

This year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three scientists who made breakthroughs in efforts to fight parasitic diseases.

Youyou Tu discovered a drug called artemisinin, which has significantly reduced death rates from malaria. William Campbell and Satoshi Omura developed a drug called avermectin, which has greatly lowered the incidence of river blindness and elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis) caused by parasitic worms, The New York Times reported.

"These two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually," the prize committee said in a statement. "The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable."

Malaria kills more than 450,000 people worldwide each year and parasitic worms that cause river blindness, elephantiasis and other diseases afflict one-third of the world's population, The Times reported.

"After decades of limited progress in developing durable therapies for parasitic diseases, the discoveries by this year's laureates radically changed the situation," according to the committee.

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Gene Therapy Fights Inherited Eye Disease: Company

A treatment for a genetic eye disease that can cause blindness may become the first gene therapy to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

A late-stage clinical trial showed that people with inherited retinal dystrophies were better able to move around in low light after receiving the treatment, according to developer Spark Therapies, The New York Times reported.

"We saw substantial restoration of vision in patients who were progressing toward complete blindness," clinical trial lead researcher Dr. Albert Maguire, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a company news release.

However, Spark did not release any actual study data.

The company said it planned to apply next year for FDA approval of the gene therapy, The Times reported.

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