Anthony Butterworth was born in Luton, U.K., in 1945 and received his BA; M.B., B.Chir., M.A. and Ph.D. in Immunology (1973) from Cambridge University. He started his career as a researcher at Cambridge University Medical School in 1973, and served from 1973-1977 as a Fellow at the Welcome Trust Laboratories in Kenya, where he conducted research on the immunology of schistosomiasis. He spent the next two years as a Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School, continuing his studies on schistosome immunity, then joined the Medical Research Council, and became Associate Professor then Professor of Medical Parasitology at Cambridge University. He is currently Professor Emeritus at Cambridge, and Honorary Scientific Director of the Biomedical Research and Training Institute at Harare (Zimbabwe) where he helps oversee research in malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS. He was also visiting professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Professor Butterworth spent most of his 30-years career studying schistosomiasis (Bilharziasis), a devastating parasitic disease that affects 200-300 million people in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. He combined laboratory research with field studies in sub-Saharan Africa (Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe), in addition to the Philippines, South America and the United States. His studies into the epidemiology and control of this disease, as well as the human body’s immune responses to the parasite, brought significant advances to our understanding of the mechanisms of disease in general, while bringing the world closer to a safe and effective anti-schistosomiasis vaccine.
Professor Butterworth made his first major contribution by showing – in the mid-1970’s – that eosinophils can kill larval forms of the parasite when working in concert with certain antibodies. Later, as a fellow at Harvard Medical School, he and others demonstrated that eosinophils destroy schistosome larvae by releasing highly toxic granules onto the larva’s surface. Butterworth’s next major accomplishment came when he conducted longitudinal studies on human schistosomiasis in Kenya and Uganda which showed that, beginning at around the age of 12, individuals experience increased IgE antibody levels — another key culprit in allergic reactions — that react against antigens of the adult parasite, as well as a drop in the levels of certain antibodies that obstruct the immune response. Molecules recognized by the IgE antibodies in immune humans are being investigated as possible candidates for a vaccine.
Professor Butterworth was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (London) in 1994. He is a member of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. In addition to the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine, he received other awards including the Chalmers Medal from the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and the Bernhard Nocht Medal from the Bernhard Nocht Institute. After his retirement, he was apoointed Honorary Professor at Cambridge University.