Amid growing concerns about the drug-resistant Malaria worldwide, University of Massachusetts Amherst microbiologist Stephen Rich and his research team have offered a new whole plant malaria treatment with highly promising results.
The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, show that the new treatment based on a use of the whole plant (WP) Artemisia annua, from which the current pharmaceutical drug artemisinin (AN) is extracted will be more effective than the drugs being used in combination currently.
The team tested a special Artemisia annua cultivar as a potential malaria therapy and found that the whole plant treatment withstands the resistant malaria and remains effective three times longer than the pure drug.
The researchers have also found the whole plant therapy is effective in killing rodent parasites that have previously evolved resistance to pure Artemisia annua. The study proved that mice given either low or high dose of WP showed significantly greater reduction in parasitemia than those in their respective AN group.
Since this is inexpensive and needs no pharmaceutical, it would help in the treatment of millions of people who suffer from malaria each year, said researchers in their paper. “This is especially important given the recent reports of resistance to artemisinin in malaria-endemic regions of the world,” says Rich.
The authors say that consuming the whole plant may be more effective than the single purified drug because the whole plant “may constitute a naturally occurring combination therapy that augments artemisinin delivery and synergizes the drug’s activity.”
While the exact mechanisms of WP’s effectiveness still needs to be identified, the researchers are confident that the demonstrated anti-malarial activity of WP Artemisia against artemisinin-resistant parasites provides “compelling reasons to further explore the role of non-pharmaceutical forms of artemisinin to treat human malaria.”
This work was funded by the UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Worcester Polytechnic.