Chinese scientists offer fresh hope in the long quest to eradicate malaria
When Tu Youyou was awarded a Nobel prize in 2015 for her work on the antimalarial drug artemisinin, she credited a 1,500-year-old Daoist doctor with her find.
Ge Hong (葛洪) , a fourth-century physician, was searching for alchemy ingredients when he unwittingly found an alternative path to immortality. Travelling through Guangdong, Ge was invited to stay at Luofu Mountain by the local governor, where he started practicing and studying local medicine, eventually compiling The Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies
(《肘后备急方》) . Centuries later, a key passage in this ancient tome inspired the 2015 Nobel laureate Tu to study the sweet wormwood plant for the treatment of malaria. Her efforts eventually led to artemisinin, a drug that’s saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
Now Chinese scientists are hoping to use artemisinin-based drugs in coordination with new methods of tackling the disease, involving mass drug administration and source eradication, in a bid to wipe out the disease entirely. It has been millenia-long battle. A mosquito-borne tropical disease that still infects nearly 200 million people every year, malaria causes fever, anemia, chills, and headaches, and can lead to organ failure and death if not treated properly. Artemisinin—a key ingredient of the compound drug Artequick—a highly effective compound with close to 100 percent response rate for treating malaria.
The 1,500 Year War is a story from our issue, “Down to Earth.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.