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July 5, 2012

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Breakthrough in malaria fight

SCIENTISTS have developed a new and cheaper method to synthesize artemisinin, a key ingredient for making anti-malarial medicines, Shanghai Jiao Tong University announced yesterday.

The finding is vital for mass production of an artemisinin drug that can save millions of malaria patients worldwide, the university said.

Artemisinin is hard to extract from artemisia annua, or sweet wormwood, a plant with bright yellow flowers.

"The high cost of extraction makes the drug a luxury for most patients," said Zhang Wanbin, a lead researcher and professor of the university's School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

His team found a catalyst enabling the extraction of artemisinin from the plant's flowers without using other chemicals. One ton of artemisia annua can produce 6 to 8 kilograms of artemisinin. Each kilogram costs 4,000 yuan (US$630) to 6,000 yuan.

The new method is expected to slash costs by more than half, Zhang said.


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