Mugwort plant better than the malaria drug

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Natural medicinal plant works better against malaria pathogens than the drug with an isolated active ingredient

A US study came to the conclusion that eating leaves of the Artemisia plant is far more effective in malaria therapy than the anti-malaria agent itself. The drug is isolated from the plant in complex procedures for the drug. Small chopped leaves showed a higher success rate than the isolated drug substance itself during the course of the study. An interaction of the active substances contained in the leaves apparently resulted in a higher kill rate of the germs.

Leaves showed higher potency
Scientist of the team around Prof. Dr. Stephen Rich from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst reports in the journal "Plos One" about the results of an interesting naturopathy study. In summary, the researchers report on the leaves of the Artemisia plant, which achieved far better mechanisms of action than the active ingredient-based anti-malaria drug during the investigation. Animal experiments showed that the ground leaves of the medicinal plant malaria pathogens were more able to kill malaria than the elaborately produced drug. If the results are confirmed in further studies, "this could make malaria therapy much cheaper," the authors said. "Especially for poorer countries, the study opens up an important perspective in the fight against malaria".

Millions of people worldwide are newly infected with the pathogen of the genus Plasmodium every year. The symptoms of the disease are high and recurring fever, chills, abdominal pain with violent cramps and stomach problems. In people with a weak immune system and children, the disease can quickly lead to acute coma and death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 750,000 people died of malaria last year. Modern medicines containing the active ingredient artemisinin are administered to treat the infectious disease. This is obtained from the "mugwort" (Artemisia annua). For the extraction, a very complex process has to be started in order to isolate the active substance from the leaves. The pure secreted active ingredient is then used for the drug.

Malaria drugs in the third world are far too expensive
Because the manufacturing process is so complex, pharmaceuticals are far too expensive for developing countries. The pharmaceutical industry never intended to develop a cheaper pharmaceutical product. This fact was the main trigger of the research work. The scientists wanted to examine the form in which the plant itself acts as a medicine against the infectious disease. The result was surprising even for the scientists.

During the research, the scientists compared the mechanisms of action of pure artemisinin and dried ground leaves on mice. The animals were previously infected with the malaria pathogen Plasmodium chabaudi. Although the pathogen does not affect humans but preferably rodents, the genetic properties are almost identical. After the laboratory mice ingested the ground leaves with the feed, the natural ingredient contained killed significantly more malaria pathogens than the artemisinin pharmaceutical product in a period of 12 to 72 hours, although the active ingredient content was almost the same.

Active substances in the leaves complement and potentiate
The scientists suspect that after the administration of the natural agent, compared to the pharmaceutically produced agent, artemisinin circulated around 40 times more in the animals' blood. In addition, the leaves apparently contain other important components "that work against malaria". The leaves of the "Artemisia plant contain a large number of substances that are medically important because of their overt but weaker action against malaria," commented the results from the biologist Pamela Waethers of the Worcester Polytecnic Institute on the results. These effective substances include "at least six known flavonoids that have been shown to work with artemisinin to kill malaria parasites. " The researcher assumes that the individual active ingredients in the natural plant complement and reinforce each other. This "interaction enabled greater effectiveness to be achieved".

Perspectives for poor countries against malaria
An important step in malaria research has been taken, the study authors emphasize. Because therapeutically, the use of the ground leaves is much cheaper than the purchase of the very expensive drugs. "The plant Artemisia can be cultivated in most climates," says the biologist. After harvesting, the leaves only have to be dried, checked for their active ingredient content, crushed and pressed into capsules. "More need not really be done for that Helping people in the third world. "And: the economy could also be revitalized by a new cultivation area. (Sb)

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Image: Christian Fischer, Wikipedia

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