Medicinal plant from Asia fights malaria, earns cash, by Tom Maliti

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Small farmer Atanasia Vincent Moshia stands proudly next to the knee-high plants she’s growing to fight two African ills: malaria and poverty.

In March, Moshia, who is also an agricultural extension officer with the Tanzanian government, switched from planting the corn and beans she’s been growing for years to artemisia annua, from which artemisinin is extracted to make a drug or a combination of drugs used to treat malaria. She expects it to be a more lucrative crop.

Artemisia annua, more commonly known as wormwood or sagewort, has been applied to a variety of ailments, including hemorrhoids, coughs and fevers. China and Vietnam are the main sources of the plant native to Asia, but they have been unable to meet a steep increase in demand. The World Health Organization says demand for artemisinin-based combination drug treatment rose to 30 million courses in 2004, from just 2 million courses in 2003.

Last year, after trials in several countries, it was found that the plant grows well in East Africa _ fitting, as Tanzanian health officials call malaria this country’s No. 1 killer. Tanzania has an estimated 16 to 18 million cases of malaria a year and about 100,000 people, mainly children, die from the disease each year, said Dr. Alex Mwita, program manager of the country’s National Malaria Control Program.
Story found here.

Source: AP Worldstream