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TCM effective in global defense against malaria

Updated: Jun 8, 2022 China Daily Print
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Comoros President Azali Assoumani said his country has benefited from the use of artemisinin-based treatment programs to fight malaria in recent years.

Assoumani thanked Chinese researchers for their foresight and generous help with regards to the treatment, making the remarks at the International Forum on the 50th Anniversary of the Discovery of Artemisinin and on Building a Global Community of Health for All, in late April.

With help from China, Comoros has become one of the countries with the lowest incidences of malaria in East Africa, and from 2012 to 2020, the rate dropped from 9 per 1,000 to less than 5 per 1,000, according to Assoumani.

Comoros is also one of the countries that has successfully blocked the local transmission chain of malaria, he said.

South China's Guangdong province has spearheaded six campaigns aimed at the swift eradication of malaria in Southeast Asia, Africa and the South Pacific region since 2003, with remarkable results having been achieved, according to government officials.

Guangdong, the birthplace of using artemisinin to fight malaria, has sent more than 260 technical experts abroad and helped train more than 10,000 local medical workers. The province has set up six overseas anti-malaria centers, said Xu Qingfeng, deputy director of the Guangdong Provincial Health Commission, who also heads the province's traditional Chinese medicine bureau.

The overseas centers include the Sino-Africa Malaria Prevention and Treatment Center, the Sino-Comoros Malaria Prevention and Treatment Center, the Sino-Papua New Guinea Traditional Chinese Medicine Center, the Sino-Togo Traditional Chinese Medicine Center, the Sino-Malawi Traditional Chinese Medicine Center and the Sino-Malawi Artemisinin Research Center.

"The centers have played an important role in the fight against malaria worldwide in previous decades," Xu said at a recent briefing on the fight against malaria with artemisinin, held in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong.

With the help of Chinese doctors and the treatment of artemisinin, Cambodia has now been listed as a country at the pre-elimination of malaria stage recognized by the World Health Organization, Xu said.

The national malaria incidence rate in Comoros has dropped by more than 98 percent, with a zero death rate from malaria having been achieved, he said.

The first pilot area in Sao Tome and Principe has reported zero cases of malaria for eight consecutive months for the first time, while the malaria infection rate among the 45,000 people on the Kirivina Islands, the pilot area in Papua New Guinea, has decreased by more than 95 percent, with a zero malaria death rate having been achieved, according to Xu.

According to official statistics, since the implementation of the artemisinin malaria elimination projects, more than 20 million people from malaria-hit nations and regions around the world have directly benefited from the diagnosis and treatment from doctors and medical experts, and the usage of artemisinin medicines from Guangdong, Xu said.

Artemisinin, a drug that helped China eliminate malaria, is a gift of traditional Chinese medicine to people all over the world and Guangdong is not only the birthplace of using Artemisia annua, also known as sweet wormwood, the plant used to cure malaria patients, but also the pioneer of making an industry around Artemisia annua go international, said Xu.

He said Guangdong has made remarkable achievements in promoting the cultivation and breeding of high-quality Artemisia annua varieties.

The artemisinin content found in the province's Artemisia annua has increased from 0.5 percent to 2.97 percent, due to extensive research and development.

An average of five kilograms of artemisinin can be extracted from a metric ton of Artemisia annua globally, but the figure reaches 12 kilograms from a ton of Artemisia annua planted in Fengshun county of Meizhou city in the eastern part of Guangdong, Xu said.

"The fourth generation of combination artemisinin-piperaquine tablets (ArtequickO), jointly developed and produced by Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine and a local company, has obtained international patent protection in 40 countries, completed trademark registration in 36 countries, and has been listed and sold in 26 malaria endemic countries around the world."

It's an innovative drug with completely independent intellectual property rights, and has many advantages, including high efficiency, quick effect, few side effects and simple application, he said.

"The tablets have now become the main antimalarial drugs in the free market of malaria highly endemic countries, including Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya," he added.

Song Jianping, director of the artemisinin research center at Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, said a representative of the WHO has also affirmed China's contribution to the fight against malaria.

"The successful implementation of the artemisinin compound malaria elimination demonstration project in the Sao Tome and Principe malaria demonstration area has opened up a new path for Sao Tome and Principe to eliminate malaria," he said.

Malaria is a major infectious disease threatening the health of all mankind.

According to the WHO's World Malaria Report 2021, more than 140 million malaria cases were reported worldwide in 2020, with 470,000 people dying of the disease, indicating malaria has become an important factor hindering the social and economic development of the world, especially in Africa.

 

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