Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Chinese Medicine in Malaria Treatment

Here an excerpt from the official annoucement of the Nobel Prize Committee in Sweden with some minor editorial adaptions:

Yesterday, October 5, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, decided to award the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with one half jointly to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites and the other half to Youyou Tu for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria.

Diseases caused by parasites have plagued humankind for millennia and constitute a major global health problem. In particular, parasitic diseases affect the world's poorest populations and represent a huge barrier to improving human health and wellbeing. This year's Nobel Laureates have developed therapies that have revolutionized the treatment of some of the most devastating parasitic diseases.

For some personal reason, my special interest is targeting the work of Youyou Tu 屠呦呦. That's why I concentrate on her work which introduced a well-known Chinese herbal plant for its ability to deliver a new kind of remedy against Malaria.

Malaria was traditionally treated by chloroquine or quinine, but with declining success. By the late 1960s, efforts to eradicate Malaria had failed and the disease was on the rise. At that time, Youyou Tu in China turned to traditional herbal medicine to tackle the challenge of developing novel Malaria therapies. From a large-scale screen of herbal remedies in Malaria-infected animals, an extract from the plant Artemisia annua emerged as an interesting candidate. However, the results were inconsistent, so Tu revisited the ancient literature and discovered clues that guided her in her quest to successfully extract the active component from Artemisia annua. Tu was the first to show that this component, later called Artemisinin, was highly effective against the Malaria parasite, both in infected animals and in humans. Artemisinin represents a new class of antimalarial agents that rapidly kill the Malaria parasites at an early stage of their development, which explains its unprecedented potency in the treatment of severe Malaria.

The picture below is showing a page about Artemisia annua [ Qing Hao青蒿 ] and which has been copied from a Chinese handbook on herbal medicine that happened to find its way into my private library. The book was published in 1989 [1st edition 1959], and I used it for my own translations about modern applications of Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM, especially for the treatment of AIDS with herbal components which seemed a promising alternative in those years when AIDS research was still at an early stage. That's why my translations of relevant Chinese publications, originating from serious Chinese specialists, attracted much interest from professional circles at that time. Soon it became clear that some traditional medical plants from China offered new opportunities for western research and opened ways for the lucrative exploitation of popular Chinese medicine.

The above page presents a drawing of Artemisia annua and a complete description of the plant together with some remarks on its preparation. The description of chemical components is followed by hints how to apply Artemisia in herbal medicine. Those hints are using the terminology of TCM and require a serious study of the matter.

The essential component in the treatment of Malaria [ NüeJi 疟疾 ] is Arteannuin [ QingHaoSu 青蒿素 ], better known as Artemisinin, and which I found in a handbook of available Chinese herbal medicine, published in 1991 (below). In that edition, Arteannuin / Artemisinin is already mentioned as a remedy against different forms of Malaria, its availability (tablets or injection fluid) and medication are included as well.

YouYou Tu together with one of her teachers in the 1950s while working in a laboratory
of the Chinese Herbal Medicine branch of China's Institute for Traditional Medicine.

Artemisinin in the Chinese Headlines


"China's Miracle Drug" - In Africa, Artemisinin Saved One Million Lives


Mao Ze Dong asked to Start Research for a Malaria Remedy.

The related article is quoting a New York Times publication from 2012.


Visitor from Stockholm

1 comment:

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