Worcester, Mass. In the worldwide battle to curtail malaria, one of the most prevalent and deadly infectious diseases of the developing world, drug after drug has fallen by the wayside as the malaria parasite has become resistant to it. Only artemisinin, derived from the sweet wormwood plant, Artemisia annua, remains as an effective treatment, but it is expensive to produce (particularly when combined with other antimalarial medications to make it less prone to resistance) and is frequently in short supply.
A new study by scientists at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and the University of Massachusetts has shown that the powdered dried leaves from the Artemisia annua plant may be a far more effective antimalarial treatment than purified artemisinin, delivering 40 times more artemisinin to the blood and reducing the level of parasite infection more completely in mice. The effectiveness of the whole plant, versus the purified drug, may be due, in part, to the presence in Artemisia annua leaves of other compounds, including flavonoids also known to have antimalarial abilities, which may create a combination therapy that works synergistically to combat the parasite and ward off resistance.
These are some of the conclusions of a paper titled "Dried whole plant Artemisia annua as an antimalarial therapy," published online today by the journal PLOS ONE .
Using the dried whole plant, instead of purified artemisinin, could significantly lower the cost of treating malaria, since it would eliminate the need to extract the drug from the plant and purify it, and could greatly expand access to antimalarial therapy, according to Pamela Weathers, professor of biology and biotechnology at WPI and a co-author of the new study. "Artemisia can be grown readily in most climates," she says. "It is a relatively simple process to harvest the leaves, pulverize them, test samples for their potency, measure o
|Contact: Michael Dorsey|
Worcester Polytechnic Institute