30 June, 2008

Sweet dose for malaria patients

Writing in the Daily Nation’s Horizons magazine, Gatonye Gathura reports that scientist have artificially produced artemisinin, the compound used for treatment of malaria, and within 3 years it will be possible to produce enough to treat all malaria cases in the world.

He reports that in a research funded by Gates foundation, the scientists have produced artemisinin from yeast in a process similar to that of brewing bear and the partnership with Sanofi-Aventis is gearing up for industrial production of the drug.

While this is good news for malaria patients, this new scientific development will deal a big blow to farmers in the country who have recently taken up farming the artemisinin producing herb-artemisia annua. Reportedly the farmers on average are making Ksh 20,000 annually from a ¼ acre of land from cultivating the herb which is in demand especially by Swiss pharmaceutical company Norvatis which is a major manufacturer of the malaria drug.

The process of producing artemisinin by extracting it from the dried leaves of the herb is labourious, making the cost of the drug expensive for malaria patients- especially in developing countries.It is hoped that the new method of producing artemisinin will dramaticaly bring down the price of treatment to the level of making it the cheapest anti-malarial drug.

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