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How Effective Is Artemisinin for Malaria?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Harkin
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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Artemisinin works quickly, is well-tolerated, with very few side effects, and is available for distribution in many different forms to treat malaria. Artemisinin-based combination therapies or the use of artemisinin with other anti-malaria drugs has also shown to somewhat diminish the development of drug-resistant strains of the parasite that causes malaria. Typically, an improvement of malaria symptoms is observed within 12 hours of the first dose of artemisinin. This is an important advantage for more severe cases of malaria, or in situations where the patient has been suffering for an extensive time and the malaria symptoms have ravaged the body.

Another advantage of using artemisinin for malaria is that this drug is estimated to have a cure rate of between 80 and 98 percent. This is a very high success rate for an anti-malaria drug. Artemisinin also has very few side effects and does not appear to have a long-lasting toxic impact on the patient. In fact, the most common side effects are short-lived and include only headaches, nausea and dizziness.

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Artemisinin for malaria can also be distributed and administered in a diverse number of ways. This drug can be provided as an intramuscular injection, a pill and as a powder. The availability of these different distribution methods makes it easier to place this medication in remote clinics where malaria is a severe problem. In many clinics, syringes needed for an intramuscular injection may be scarce or unavailable. This makes the availability of the pill and powder forms of artemisinin essential for delivery of the drug.

One of the most difficult problems in the battle against malaria is the emergence of drug-resistant strains that reduce the efficacy of drugs. Using artemisinin for malaria, in combination with other anti-malaria drugs, seems to slow and even, in many situations, prevent the development of malaria strains that are resistant to the medications used to combat this disease. This is an important advantage in the war on malaria.

A disadvantage of using artemisinin for malaria is that this drug is expensive. When compared with other anti-malaria drugs, artemisinin is about ten times more expensive. The high cost of this drug has created a problem with ineffective, counterfeit, black market doses becoming available.

Malaria is a disease caused by the parasite Plasmodium and results in an elevated fever, chills, and anemia. There are several theories about how artemisinin for malaria works. The most widely-accepted theory is that this drug is able to disrupt the actions of the parasites’ sub-cellular structures, the mitochondrion and endoplasmic reticulum. This prevents the cells from producing the essential energy-producing enzyme, ATPase. In essence, artemisinin starves the parasite of energy.

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