December 21, 2012

WPI, UMass Scientists Push Better Malaria Treatment

Researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and UMass Medical School have published research that could lead to a more effective treatment for malaria.

The malaria parasite has become resistant to numerous drugs over the years. The most effective drug – artemisinin, derived from the wormwood plant – is often expensive to produce and in short supply.

But the researchers found that powdered dried leaves from the Artemisia annua plant may in fact be more effective in treating malaria than the purified form that is currently the most widely used treatment.

The research team found that the powdered leaves of a plant deliver 40 times more artemisinin to the blood and reduce the level of infection more completely in mice than does the purified drug.

The reason may be due, in part, to the presence of other compounds in the leaves such as flavonoids, which may work synergistically with the artemisinin to combat malaria.

The research, funded by WPI and the UMass Medical School Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences, was published in Plos One, an open-access, peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science.

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