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A New Way To Make The Most Powerful Malaria Drug

In Malaria, Uncategorized on April 15, 2013 at 10:39 am

 

An extract of sweet wormwood has been used in China for thousands of years to treat malaria, but being able to make mass quantities of the extract has been elusive, until now.

An extract of sweet wormwood has been used in China for thousands of years to treat malaria, but being able to make mass quantities of the extract has been elusive, until now.

Researchers in California described Wednesday their new method for mass-producing the key ingredient for the herbal drug artemisinin, the most powerful antimalarial on the market. Already, the French drugmaker Sanofi is ramping up production at a plant in Italy to manufacture the ingredient and the drug.

Global health advocates say they expect this new method of producing artemisinin will at last provide a stable supply of the drug and cut the overall cost of malaria treatment.

Up until now, artemisinin has only been available commercially as an extract of the relatively scarce sweet wormwood plant. As global demand for the drug has climbed in the past decade, the price of that extract has been highly erratic. Between 2003 and 2004, the price of the compound jumped from just over $100 a pound to almost $550. By 2007, artemisinin prices had crashed. Then, two years later, prices almost doubled.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/04/10/176807016/a-new-way-to-make-the-most-powerful-malaria-drug

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Citing Malaria, Natalie Gulbis withdraws from Founders Cup

In Malaria, Uncategorized on March 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm
Natalie Gulbis

Natalie Gulbis withdrew from the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix Tuesday night with her management team confirming that she contracted malaria while on the tour’s Asian swing.

Gulbis first became ill playing the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore two weeks ago. She withdrew after the first round with her team reporting she was being medically treated for flu-like symptoms, but had not been diagnosed with malaria.


 

“Natalie originally became ill in Singapore and she was treated and medically cleared to fly home,” according to a statement released jointly by the LPGA and IMG, Gulbis’ management company. “Natalie continues to be treated at home and is expected to be at full strength in three weeks. Natalie’s well-being is a top priority for both the LPGA and IMG, and steps continue to be taken to ensure the well-being of Natalie and all the players on the LPGA Tour now and for future events. LPGA doctors have been consulted and believe she is on appropriate medications, under great care, and her prognosis is excellent.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, malaria is a “serious and sometimes fatal disease,” if not treated properly. It’s caused by a parasite that infects a certain kind of mosquito that feeds on human beings. The CDC reports that about 1,500 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year with the vast majority among travelers and immigrants returning from parts of the world where malaria transmission occurs, including South Asia.

The LPGA reports that tournament founding partner Scottsdale Healthcare will be on-site in Phoenix Wednesday to provide a blood draw for players, caddies and family members wishing to be screened.

http://www.golfchannel.com/news/golftalkcentral/citing-malaria-gulbis-withdraws-from-rr-donnelley/?cid=email_WendesdayNL_20130313

Malaria Re-appears in Greece

In Malaria, Uncategorized on November 15, 2012 at 9:48 am
The Wall Street Journal
HEALTH INDUSTRY
Updated November 14, 2012, 4:07 a.m. ET

Health Scourge Hits Greece

Malaria, Once Mostly Eradicated, Returns as Crisis Erodes Government Safety Net

By ALKMAN GRANITSAS

SKALA, Greece—Manolis Giannakakos doesn’t remember how he got to the hospital. What he does recall is a searing pain that felt like someone was driving screws into his skull and then violent chills and delirium.

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Doctors told the 56-year-old math teacher in this small town near Sparta he had a dangerous disease mostly eradicated from Greece in 1974: Malaria.

“When I was still in grade school I remember this was a big problem,” Mr. Giannakakos said. “But never in my life did I believe it would return.”

Over the past two years, more than 50 endemic cases of the mosquito-borne parasitic illness and more than 100 imported cases have been identified in Greece. No one has died yet, but the disease can be debilitating and recur for years.

The return of malaria, a scourge in developing countries, to Greece is a disturbing indicator of the nation’s decline since it crashed in 2009 under the weight of a debt binge. Since then, Greece has seen decades of advances in public health rolled back, as a flood of illegal immigrants, a dysfunctional government and budget cuts ravage a once proud health-care system.

Everything from cancer drugs to syringes is in short supply. Doctors and nurses aren’t being paid. Efforts to monitor and contain outbreaks of infectious disease are faltering.

In addition to malaria, public-health officials say they are worried about rises in everything from infectious respiratory-tract diseases and skin conditions to tuberculosis and HIV.

These afflictions comes as people have less cash for health care. Studies show that up to a third of Greeks can no longer afford the drugs and tests prescribed by their doctors; routine checkups and vaccinations for children are falling.

The town of Skala overlooks a 20-square-mile marshy plain where the Evrota River empties into the Aegean Sea. The water is a boon, nourishing the thirsty orange groves. But it also makes the area a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, including malaria-carrying anopheles.

For years, Skala has attracted immigrants who come to harvest oranges and olives in the summer and autumn. Recent arrivals have come from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, all countries where malaria is rife.

Officials estimate that 1,500 to 3,000 immigrants—accounting for 15% to 30% of the local population—are crowded into houses, shacks, tent camps and even abandoned stables in Skala and surrounding towns.

It is unclear who first carried the malaria parasite that has spread around Evrota, but epidemiologists said mosquitoes, which have a typical flying range of about 3 miles, likely bit an infected immigrant and then transmitted it to others.

The Greek government was slow to respond to the first cases. Greece’s Center for Disease Control—prodded by European Union health authorities—only stepped in after an outbreak was well under way last year, local officials say.

The local mayor, Jannis Gripiotis, a doctor by training, said he began seeking help from Athens after some malaria cases were discovered in 2008. Instead of acting, Dr. Gripiotis said, Greek officials “decided to cover it up. They called me crazy.”

Greece’s CDC denies any coverup and says it has no record of any malaria cases in 2008 nor is it aware of any warnings issued by the mayor that year.

In 2009, six locally acquired malaria cases were confirmed in Evrota, the municipality that includes Skala, something independent public-health experts said should have triggered preventive measures by Athens. In 2010 there was one further confirmed case of endemic malaria and the next year the overall number of cases in the area jumped to 57, of which 34 were confirmed as being locally acquired.

That same year, 2011, 40 cases of the P.vivax infection—the parasite behind the outbreak—were reported in five different areas of Greece from individuals with no travel history to an endemic country.

“You know that the mosquito that can carry the parasite is present in this country…and you know that there are immigrants arriving from malarial countries,” said Apostolos Veizis, Greek program director for Doctors Without Borders, which began providing free health checks to immigrants in Evrota in March. “What do you have to do to ring the alarm bell and raise the level of surveillance?”

Even as alarms sounded, Greece’s spiraling economic crisis was taking its toll on the country’s public-health services. To help meet debtors’ demands, the government has slashed local-government budgets by 60% over the past three years as it saddled local governments with more health-care responsibilities.

Provincial governments, which used to help control malaria by aerial spraying of insecticides to kill mosquito larvae, were abolished in 2011, leaving it unclear who would take over. Amid the cutbacks, few local governments made it a priority.

In the past two years, Mayor Gripiotis said he appealed to the central government for money to map the local mosquito population, conduct door-to-door health screenings and begin spraying. He said he never received a response. This year he spent €300,000 ($381,000) from his own budget to spray and expects to do the same next year.

“I will find the money somewhere,” he said. “But I’m dying here and the problem is not a local issue, this is a blight on all of Greece.”

In response to questions from The Wall Street Journal, Health Minister Andreas Lycourentzos said recently he would secure funding this year for the municipality in combating the outbreak.

The scourge has begun to ease. Greece’s CDC began doing door-to-door screenings, which has helped bring down the confirmed malaria cases of infection in Evrota to eight this year from 34 last year.

The Greek CDC is weighing sending a second team to Evrota next year, if it has adequate funds, and has developed a national three-year suppression plan for the rest of Greece.

But the disease has now spread to other areas of the country, and it will take several years of spraying and other efforts to eradicate malaria, officials say.

Doctors Without Borders—which normally works in developing countries—is considering setting up a mission in another potential hot spot: the center of Athens, where thousands of immigrants live in crowded, unsanitary conditions and without access to basic health care. “Tuberculosis cases need more attention, there is quite a lot of underreporting of the disease here in Greece,” the group’s Dr. Veizis said.

 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204789304578089463387817162.html?mod=djemHL_t

Facing anti-malaria nets, mosquitoes alter habits

In Malaria, Uncategorized on September 24, 2012 at 9:06 am

“They found that mosquitoes seemed to change their hours of “peak aggression” from 2 or 3 a.m. to around 5 a.m. three years after nets were put up. And in one village, the proportion of mosquito bites inflicted outdoors rose.

http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/09/20/health-malaria-idINL4E8KK00520120920

Nigeria: Malaria Control Under Threat From Insecticide Resistance

In Malaria, Uncategorized on July 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Nigerians have become so at home with malaria that they feel it is no longer a threat but scientists believe that it is still a very big threat to man today. Statistics show that worldwide, it kills more than 1.2 million people annually.

Prevention, they say, is better than cure so researchers at the Department of Public Health, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) are working hard to see that malaria is eradicated by eliminating the vehicle through which the malaria parasite is transmitted to man, the female anopheles mosquito. In this chat with Dr. Sam Awolola, head of the Department of Public Health, NIMR, he says all the efforts will come to naught if proper policies are not put in place. Excerpts:

According to Dr Awolola, the three main processes in malaria control are prevention, treatment and the possibility of having a vaccine against malaria but in NIMR, the focus is on prevention.

“When you talk of prevention, you are talking of how to prevent people from getting infected with malaria; how to prevent transmission from mosquito to human. We focus on preventing mosquitoes from infecting people with malaria through three major ways: Use of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets impregnated with insecticide. They can last up to three years; spraying the houses with WHO-approved insecticides done by trained personnel. When a house is adequately sprayed, the insecticide repels mosquitoes because it has excito-repellent effect.

It also kills those that are stubborn and land on the sprayed wall. This is done every six months or at least once a year depending on the epidemiology of malaria in that environment. The third aspect is larva source management. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water and before they become adults, they pass through some phases and at that level, you can catch them. Larva source management has two portions – larviciding, ie applying insecticide to the larva and pupa stages.

The other aspect is environmental management. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water and such water can be cleared or made to flow and all the larvae will be killed. If your gutters are flowing, the water will carry the larvae along and destroy them. Also, some areas of vegetation support the breeding of mosquitoes. We clear those vegetations. All these make up environmental management. So environmental management plus larviciding are put together as larva source management,” he stated.

He said using protective clothing or aerosol in houses do not make much impact when it comes to reducing malaria morbidity and mortality.

Vector resistance:

Awolola noted that their research in the last 10 years has shown clearly that there is a lot of resistance to public health insecticides used for malaria vector control in Nigeria. Due to continuous use of the four classes of chemical insecticides (pyrethroids, carbamates, organophosphates and organochlorines), the mosquitoes were subjected to a lot of pressure and over the years, they adapted to the environment so well that they have now become resistant to the insecticides.

“Mosquitoes react to an insecticide in two main ways: One is by trying to metabolise (decay) it using some chemical enzymes so that it becomes non-toxic. Another way is mutation. The mosquito gets in touch with the insecticide through its integument (legs, wings), it then changes the configuration of the gene that recognises the insecticide so that the site of recognition of the mosquito changes and the insecticide becomes ineffective.

For the insecticide to be effective, the site of recognition with the mosquito must be identical. So immediately the mosquito changes the site of recognition, the whole system changes and the mosquito is able to survive. If that happens, the mosquito has mutated because genes are involved.

The gene is a heritable material which means that the next generation of mosquitoes will be resistant to the insecticide because it has passed the gene to them and that gene will continue in that population. We, therefore, have an insecticide-resistant gene in the population and the next set of mosquitoes from that line, whether they have been exposed before or not, will be resistant to insecticides.

You know that 350 mosquitoes can come out from one set of eggs. So if out of the 350, 100 survive and have a blood meal and are able to lay eggs, they will go on to produce another 350 mosquitoes each, and there will be an exponential increment in the number of mosquitoes that will be resistant in that population. That is how resistance spreads.

Way forward:

Dr. Awolola advised that all interventions must be evidence-based for them to be effective. “This means that before the intervention, you must have sufficient evidence to show that it will work. You must have collected some baseline information prior to the intervention, but unfortunately, that is not done inNigeria. But things have started changing at the national level because people have seen that you can spend millions of naira and it goes down the drain if you don’t do these things.

We want to scale up our intervention, to have an ambitious coverage. So if you don’t get these fundamental bases of malaria control, then you are running your programme on a faulty start and you will end up having faulty results and faulty intervention and then malaria continues to stay with us. “With insecticide resistance, we are in for it unless we put our house in order to ensure that our interventions are evidence-based.”

He advocated the practice of rotational use of insecticide, saying that “when you identify that the mosquito is resistant to a particular insecticide, you use another class of insecticides becuse the classes have different target sites. But that can be done when you have a programme that is systematic, pragmatic and evidence-based where information are gathered by think-tanks and fuelled into the national bowl for use to formulate policies.”

He noted that there is still a gap between research and policy which needs to be bridged. Harping on the need for surveillance systems that will be able to monitor resistance, he said: “By now, we should have in each geopolitical zone, a centre where they monitor mosquito resistance because malaria is a big issue.

People say that all the time but the will to actually do something about it is not there so we need to put that in place because if that is not in place, sooner or later, these chemicals will become useless, worthless and the issue of malaria becomes more difficult to control, the intervention will no longer be effective and it will be rejected.

“Our research has shown clearly that the resistance issue has continued to increase in Nigeria and if measures are not in place to ensure that it is curtailed, sooner or later, you will see that all these interventions will fail so government needs to put a structure in place, a structure which I refer to as a roadmap to malaria elimination.

That roadmap should be a policy statement from the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Malaria Control Programme and we will have a policy in place towards malaria elimination and this roadmap has to be well structured.

It is not something that will happen in two or five years, it might not happen in 10 years but you have timelines and milestones and indicators to show progress. Insecticide resistance is one key issue here; you cannot get malaria eliminated without focusing more on the vectors,” he said.

 

http://allafrica.com/stories/201206280756.html

Waking up to the Math of Malaria

In Malaria, Uncategorized on June 25, 2012 at 3:11 pm
Photo
Thu, Jun 21 2012

By Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – To the minerals and mobiles underpinning Africa‘s pacy growth over the last decade, you may soon be able to add malaria – or at least its absence.

Besides the huge human cost imposed on the continent – 90 percent of the 655,000 deaths estimated worldwide in 2010 – the mosquito-borne disease is an economic millstone, draining public and private resources and hammering productivity.

According to a 2001 study co-authored by U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs, the disease imposes an annual “growth penalty” of 1.3 percentage points on afflicted states, which includes most of those south of the Sahara apart from South Africa.

In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and its biggest oil producer, malaria is responsible for up to 25 worker days lost per person per year, or two a month, due to direct infection or the need to stay at home to nurse a sick family member, often for a week or more.

In Zambia, it is the leading cause of absenteeism, accounting for more than twice as many days off as HIV/AIDS, and can consume up to 40 percent of the public health budget in cash-strapped frontline states.

It may not always be thus.

The number of malaria deaths has fallen dramatically in the last decade due to increased aid spending on basic items such as insecticide-treated bed nets and drugs, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

More excitingly, the holy grail of a vaccine against a notoriously adaptable parasite no longer appears unobtainable after an experimental vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline was shown last year to halve the risk of African children getting the disease.

Even before the prospect of a vaccine, companies across Africa were waking up to the commercial sense of investing in a malaria-free workforce – and the results are encouraging governments to get in on the act.

Faced with endemic malaria in the 240,000 population town around its Obuasi gold mine in Ghana, AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s third largest bullion producer, launched a multi-pronged campaign of bed-nets, indoor insecticide spraying and drugs that cut infections from 79,237 in 2005 to fewer than 16,000 in 2008.

The program cost the Johannesburg-based firm $1.3 million a year, but over that time the malaria drug bill at the mine’s hospital dropped from $55,000 to $9,800 a month, while work days lost each month fell from 6,983 to just 282.

“It really made economic sense because of the absenteeism and the cost of medication,” said Steve Knowles, the head of AngloGold’s anti-malaria operations.

The Ghana model is now being extended to communities around its mines in Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Mali and Guinea, bringing as many as 500,000 people under its umbrella.

Europe’s financial crisis and relatively sluggish rich-world growth have left a question mark over cash pools such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria that have been complementing state and private sector efforts, threatening to unravel the gains made.

But Knowles said many governments were becoming increasingly aware of the mathematics of beating malaria and starting to put their own programs in place.

The prospect of an affordable vaccine is only going to increase the power of that argument for a region forecast to grow at 5.4 percent this year – even with malaria. Without it, that figure could be knocking on 7 percent.

“Now that they’re seeing the aid funding may not be there, it’s a bit of a wake-up call and governments are looking to do it themselves,” Knowles said. “What difference will a vaccine make? If it comes through, it’s going to be huge.”

(Editing by Ed Stoddard and Ron Askew)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/21/us-africa-money-idUSBRE85K0XI20120621

New Fabric Embedded with Mosquito Repellent

In Dengue Fever, Malaria on May 7, 2012 at 7:52 am

Two Cornell University researchers from Africa recently created a hooded body suit molecularly embedded with an insecticide to repel mosquitoes that could carry the malaria virus.

Although insecticide-treated bed nets are common in areas where malaria is endemic, the prototype garment can be worn during the day and the active ingredient will not dissipate as does skin-based repellents, according to RDMag.com.

The repellent and the fabric are bonded at the nanolevel, using what are called metal organic framework molecules. These MOF’s are clustered crystalline compounds that can hold three times the insecticide of a normal fibrous net.

“The bond on our fabric is very difficult to break,” Kenya native Frederick Ochanda, a post-doctoral associate in fiber science and apparel design, said, RDMag.com reports. “The nets in use now are dipped in a solution and not bonded in this way, so their effectiveness doesn’t last very long.

“Seeing malaria’s effect on people in Kenya, it’s very important for me to apply fiber science to help this problem. A long-term goal of science is to be able to come up with solutions to help protect human health and life, so this project is very fulfilling for me.”

Ochanda said that he hopes to aid in the development of an MOF fabric that can release repellent in response to changes in light or temperature. Wearers could use more protection at night when mosquitoes are increasingly active.

Dengue-Malaria Scare Looms Hindustan

In Dengue Fever, Malaria on April 30, 2012 at 8:39 am

Dengue-malaria scare looms, health dept has no
plans or enough staff

http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Gurgaon/Dengue-malaria-scare-looms-health-dept-has-no-plans-or-enough-staff/Article1-848237.aspx
The fear of malaria and dengue is looming large over the city this year as well. Besides, the health department
claims lack of manpower to carry out any preventive measures such as fogging and others to check this menace.
A large number of city residents fall prey to malaria and dengue every year.
In 2011, the city reported 153 cases of dengue. Nine people lost their lives. The city also reported 526 malaria
cases.
And this year, as summer is approaching, the department has again showed its helplessness citing lack of
manpower to carry out fogging in the city. At present, the malarial wing of the department has 16 people and the
district health department has written a letter to the state health department for an additional 120 people.
“We have shortage ofstaff in the district. But we willstill carry out fogging and other measures to control the
problem. We are waiting for additional manpower,” said Dr Parveen Garg, chief medical officer.
Residents allege that the health department has not initiated fogging and other preventive measures till now. Last
year, the department was avoiding fogging and other measures saying that fogging was ‘not good’ for health and
was expensive. But this year they do not have manpower.
Riti Singal, resident of Kendriya Vihar said, “These things should have been done well in advance. Now when
mosquitoes have started ruling, the department realised that they do not have manpower. By now things would
have been clear how to control this menace. But they are waiting for some positive cases.”
http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/848237.aspx
© Copyright © 2012 HT Media Limited. AllRights Reserved.

Artemisinin-Resistant Malaria Spreads

In Dengue Fever, Malaria on April 9, 2012 at 7:57 am
Image
April 5, 2012 5:32 PM

Drug-resistant Malaria Spreads

By Michelle Castillo
 
mosquito, insect, malaria, stock, 4x3
(Credit: CDC Public Health Image Library)
(CBS News) A strain of malaria that is not treatable by the most effective drug is now knocking on the Thai-Burma (also known as Myanmar) border and growing in its drug resistance.According to Reuters, there is danger that the drug-resistant version may spread through India and Africa.A new study published in The Lancet showed how the plasmodium falciparum form of the disease, which was observed in Cambodiaas early as 2006, has moved 500 miles westwards through southeast Asia.Researchers looked at over 3200 patients between 2001 and 2010 and recorded how long it took to clear malaria infections from their systems. Not only was the disease taking longer to treat, in western Cambodia 42 percent of Malariacases had become resistant to artemisinin, widely considered the best drug to treat malaria, between 2007 and 2010.Researchers predicted this meant similar rate would be found in Thai-Burma border in two to six years. They are proposing further studies to see if these strains of plasmodium falciparum are genetically related.Malaria is a parasitic disease that includes symptoms of high fevers, shaking chills, flu-like symptoms and anemia, according to the National Institute of Health. First symptoms can occur between 10 days to 4 weeks after infection, and the symptoms can occur in cycles of 48 to 72 hours.The Center for Disease Control reports that 1500 cases of malaria are reported each year in America, even though the disease has generally been eradicated from the U.S. On the global lebel, 3.3. billion people — about half the world’s population — live in areas that are at risk of malaria transmission. The WHO said that malaria caused 655,000 deaths in 2010.

Almost all malaria-related deaths are caused by the drug-resistant plasmodium falciparum version. Scientists believe the spread is fueled by the incorrect use of artemisinin and fake versions of the drug, White told Reuters.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57410109-10391704/drug-resistant-malaria-spreads-to-thai-burma-border/

Bio-Tech Breakthrough Could End Malaria Drug Shortages

In Malaria on November 12, 2011 at 8:41 am

BY: TALEA MILLER

Wormwood plants growing in China. Photo by Flickr user Novartis AG.

A synthetic biology breakthrough, achieved at laboratories in northern California, could expand access to malaria treatment around the globe beginning in 2012.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the biotech start-up Amyris developed a process to manufacture artemisinin, a crucial ingredient in first-line malaria drugs that until now had to be extracted from a natural crop called sweet wormwood.

Nearly one million people die each year around the world from malaria, despite the existence of effective drugs against the disease. One reason is the lack of access to affordable treatment with artemisinin combination therapy.

Fluctuations in the annual crop output of sweet wormwood, a fern-like plant grown mostly in China and Vietnam, have caused instability in the market price for these malaria drugs. Shortages of the crop can also lead to shortages of the medicine.

Fermentation tank photo courtesy Sanofi-aventis.

The new semi-synthetic artemisinin, produced in large-scale fermintation tanks (pictured to the right) from engineered synthetic microbes, successfully entered the production phase through a public-private partnership with the drug company Sanofi-aventis earlier this year. It is considered “semi-synthetic” because it is uses natural substances in the process.

It will hit the market beginning in 2012, and those involved with the research hope it will stabilize prices and take the boom and bust nature of artemisinin production out of the malaria treatment equation.

Richard Chin, CEO of the non-profit drug development organization OneWorld Health, said production will ramp up from 20 tons in the first year to 40 tons annually in 2013. His organization coordinated the public-private partnership and development of the technology with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation*.

“It will be about half, a little less than half, of the world’s supply and it will alleviate the shortage predicted for next year,” said Chin.

The influx of artemisinin will help make the best quality malaria treatment more affordable for governments and consumers in poor countries, said Dr. Olusoji Adeyi, who runs the affordable malaria medication program at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and is not involved in the research.

“This is a benefit to the consumer, at the country level, and the resources that governments and donors provide can cover more treatments,” said Adeyi.

The project is aiming for an artemisinin market price of about $350 a kilo so that farmers can also stay in business growing sweet wormwood. Currently, Chin said, artemisinin is priced higher than $500 a kilo and climbing because of an anticipated shortage in the crop for next year.

“The price is rising as we speak,” he said.

The high price of artemisinin has played a big role in the lack of access to the combination therapies, Adeyi said, leaving many in malaria endemic areas to turn to the cheap — but now mostly ineffective — chloro­quine malaria treatments.

In many countries, artemisinin combination therapy can still cost anywhere between $4 and $10 for the consumer, while chloroquine costs around 50 cents. The difference in price makes the higher quality drug prohibitively expensive to most people in malaria endemic areas, Adeyi said.

The Global Fund has designed a financing mechanism to reduce those prices, which is showing good success so far in its pilot stage, but Adeyi said any expansion of access to medication will require a steady dependable supply of artemisinin like what the semi-synthetic roll out could provide.

The project intends to be a complimentary source of artemisinin for malaria drugs, not to edge natural artemisinin out of the market.

“We are not trying to make it a monopoly,” Chin said. “We don’t want to lower [the price] below a point where it is fair to the farmers.”

Through the partnership, Sanofi-aventis is producing the artemisinin on a large scale, and has agreed to sell it at production price in a fair manner to any qualified drug producer who promises to use it in combination therapy.

The company will also be able to use the ingredient for its own manufacturing purposes. Amyris has also benefited from the project, and is now using the technology developed for the malaria project for work on synthetic fuels. But, says Chin, the real payoff for all the groups involved will come when effective treatment starts to drive down transmission of new malaria cases, and he hopes it will encourage other drug companies and institutions to get involved in global health research down the road.

“The ultimate goal is eradication,” Chin said. “To make malaria a forgotten disease would be incredible.”

*For the record, the PBS NewsHour‘s global health unit is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2011/10/bio-tech-breakthrough-could-end-malaria-drug-shortages.html

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