Responsible for novel malaria discovery is granted the Clara Southmayd Ludlow Medal

Experiment by Dr. Ruth Nussenzweig with rodents marked the onset of the long search for a vaccine. Despite the discouraging performance of vaccines in the first decades, she never lost hope on immunization


The extraordinary contributions by Dr. Ruth, the first scientist to be granted the Clara Southmayd Ludlow Medal, changed forever researches on malaria vaccines

Along her career, Dr. Ruth Nussenzweig broke taboos and collected numerous awards. Recently she was granted with the Clara Southmayd Ludlow Medal , honor recently created by the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (ASTMH). Dr. Clara Southmayd Ludlow was the first woman known to publish extensively on the taxonomy of mosquitoes and their occurrence in relation to the incidence of mosquito-borne diseases; she had a notable medical career. The Medal recognizes honorees for their inspirational and pioneering spirit, whose work represents success despite obstacles and advances the field of tropical medicine. According to information from the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Dr. Ruth is the first recipient of the Clara Southmayd Ludlow Medal and her extraordinary contributions forever changed malaria vaccine research

Dr. Ruth performed a fundamental protection work against malaria at a time it was thought to be impossible. In 1967, she was the first scientist to prove that mice could acquire immunity to the disease by exposing them to sporozoites, one of the life stages of the malaria parasites. During the 1980s, her and her husband, Dr. Victor Nussenzweig demonstrated that a protein on the surface of the parasite could be used to promote an immune response against the disease and, this way, provide some protection against the infection. Since then, the protein studied by the couple became a fundamental component of half the vaccines ever tested in humans, including a formulation experimented in Africa.

Still according to the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Dr. Ruth is described as focused, creative, and with a powerful and indomitable personality. Among her many recognitions, she is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1997, she was the first female recipient of the Joseph Augustine LePrince Medal, an award granted by the ASTMH. During most of her career, Dr. Ruth was as active member of the ASTMH, publishing over 250 papers during a 50-year period, with 24 papers published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

In 2008, Dr. Ruth was awarded the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal by the Sabin Vaccine Institute in recognition of her many contributions in the field of immunology and commitment to life-saving medical discoveries. In 2013, she was the first Brazilian female scientist to be elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in the United States in the 150-year history of this renowned institution. In 2014, she and her husband were awarded with the Warren Alpert Foundation award, in partnership with Harvard Medical School. The honor was in recognition for their pioneer discoveries in chemistry and parasitology and their personal commitment in making from these discoveries an effective chemotherapeutic agent and approaches to control malaria by immunization.

The Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine (BSTM) attempted to contact Dr. Ruth, but for health issues she was unable to answer us. However, her husband, Dr. Victor Nussenzweig, was keen to say a few words. Ruth always believed in the malaria vaccine. Recently, the World Health Organization and the United Nations recommended the use of RTS, our vaccine against malaria in five African countries. Ruth and I are very happy, he celebrates.

Regarding the current malaria situation in Brazil and the world, Dr. Victor says it has not changed. […] and as long as there is a vector, the Anopheles mosquito, and misery in Africa, it will not change, unless the vaccine is seriously applied. This is what the WHO, as well as the UN have recently recommended, he ends.…