Gene Map of Anti-Malaria Plant Could Boost Supply
Researchers have mapped the genes of Artemisia annua to allow selection of high-yield varieties.
The study, published in the journal Science, aims to make growing the plant more profitable for farmers.
“It’s a major milestone for the development of this crop,” Professor Ian Graham from the University of York in the UK told BBC News.
The research has been welcomed by Dr Chris Drakeley, director of the Malaria Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Anything that enables an increased yield of product from something like Artemisia annua is a major step.
“This is the first line anti-malarial in nearly all endemic countries at the moment and supplies can be limited.”
Artemisinin combination therapies, or ATCs, are used widely to treat malaria and are seen as the best solution to the parasite’s increasing resistance to anti-malarial drugs.
Professor Graham, who led the study, hopes that new higher yielding and more robust varieties could increase global supply of the malaria treatment within three years.
“Our aim is to have hybrid seeds that can be released to farmers in the developing world by 2011 or 2012. With a year lag for planting, this would have an impact on supply in 2012 or 2013.”
“We have to wait six to eight months from putting the seed in the ground to harvesting the crop and seeing how it has performed.”
Dr Drakeley hopes the new varieties will become available quickly.
“This will allow an increase in the basic compound that forms ATC therapies. If they can get these seeds out in the timeframe they’re talking about it’ll be a major advance,” he said.