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Award of Excellence
Adam Nadel
Freelance

"Malaria: blood,sweat, and tears"


12 of 36

Judges' Special Recognition
Adam Nadel
Freelance


"Malaria: blood,sweat, and tears"

A man holds dried Artemisia annua.

Artemisinin is the active ingredient in ACT, currently the most common and effective treatment used for Plasmodium falciparum malaria. ACT stands for "artemisinin-based combination therapy," which combines artemisinin with other partner drugs to ensure successful clearing of all parasites while minimizing the development of resistance. Artemisinin is isolated from the plant Artemisia annua (seen in this picture) and for thousands of years it was used by Chinese herbalists to treat disease. Artemisinin came into wider use in the late 1960's, after the malaria parasite became resistant to chloroquine in some countries.

The downside to ACT is its high cost. It currently costs one to five dollars per dose, which is about ten to fifty times the price of chloroquine. In communities where the average income for the poorest 20 % of the population can be less than $100 per year, this is prohibitively expensive.

A number of researchers around the world are looking into ways of reducing the cost of artemisinin. One method of producing artemisinin more cheaply is by splicing wormwood genes to yeast cells. The genetically altered yeast cells transform sugar into artemisinin. This process is one of many that may reduce the cost of ACT from dollars to pennies.

 

 

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