18 December, 2008

New malaria drug in the making?

The standard Newspaper reports that researchers at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) are on the verge of a major breakthrough in the fight against malaria. It is reported that research on a plant, phytolacca dodecandra, found in Turkana District promises to produce an effective pesticide against mosquitoes.

According to one of the researchers Pamela Were, field tests have proved that the plant can kill mosquitoes in all their life stages; for example, it kills the mosquito larvae within ten hours of exposure. The plant is very effective in low doses and the chemical extracted from the plant has potential to be used as a pesticide.

The research is in the final stages and the researchers expect to patent and licence the invention in the course of next year.

According to a wikipedia entry, the plant Phytolacca dodecandra is variously known as endod, Gopo Berry, or African soapberry and is a trailing shrub or climber native to Africa. The plant is cultivated mainly in Ethiopia where it is used as a soap and shampoo as well as a poison to stun fish. The plant is lethal to snail - a fact discovered by Ethiopian scientists . After an Ethiopian scientist demonstrated the plants potency to American scientists, they took out a patent (US 5252330), hoping to sell it as a biological control for the Zebra mussel, a pest in the Great Lakes of the US and Canada.

Hopefully the Kenyan scientists will not demonstrate or have not demonstrated the potency of their research to the American Scientists.

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