Fast-track Plant Breeding of High-yielding Artemisia annua to Supply Escalating Demand for ACT Malaria Drugs

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Malaria is one of the world's most serious public health problems, claiming almost a million lives a year and hampering development in many poor countries. However, the global health community has ambitious proposals to cut back and possibly even wipe out this disease: the Global Malaria Action Plan aims virtually to eliminate preventable deaths from malaria by 2015. In order to meet such targets, malaria control measures are being scaled up substantially. This includes increased use of artemisinin combination therapies (ACT), the most effective treatments for malaria. Demand for such drugs is predicted to reach ca 200 million treatments by 2012, roughly double the 2008 level. But can the supply chain for these medicines keep pace with this escalation in demand? Artemisinin is extracted from the medicinal herb Artemisia annua. This plant is farmed in China, Vietnam and East Africa, where it an important income source for tens of thousands of small-scale growers. In recent years, fluctuations in the price of artemisinin and relatively high prices for competing food crops have made Artemisia a less competitive choice for both growers and extractors. Planting areas are reportedly only around a third of that required to meet ultimate demand. High-yielding varieties of Artemisia are urgently needed to improve the economics of Artemisia-growing and reduce production costs.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2010

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