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Field cultivation of Artemisia annua and enhanced extraction of artemisisin used in novel anti malarial treatments - NF0613

Cultivation of Artemisia sp and enhanced extraction of Artemisinin used in novel anti malarial treatments

Abstract of Research

Malaria affects 300-350 million people and kills between 1.2 and 1.7 million annually, particularly children. In the past, the combination of insecticides to control the mosquito and anti-malarial drugs had been very successful, however, multi-drug resistance to existing anti-malarial drugs is increasing and becoming a worldwide problem and the use of DDT based insecticides is also now considered environmentally unacceptable.

Extracts of Chinese plants Artemisia sp containing Artemisinin, which have been in use in China for 2,000 years, are increasingly being championed to meet this shortfall. Artemisia produces a compound named Artemisinin (also know as qinghaosu), which kills the principal malarial parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. Artemisinin, and its related pharmaceutical drugs are currently used in over 100 countries to treat multi-drug resistant malaria. This year following a World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation, Artemisia-Combination Therapies (ACTs) have been adopted as the front line treatment of choice in countries affected by Malaria. UNICEF/WHO have confirmed that at least 26 countries have now adopted Artemisia-based anti-malarials as front line treatments; this could increase to 50 by the end of 2004, requiring approximately 132 million treatment courses during 2005. However, world Artemisia production is currently only able to supply 30 million treatments.

The feasibility of synthetic production has been examined, but, the complex biochemistry of Artemisinin, combined with the need to keep the price of treatments very low, mean that this method is currently unviable. The current supply chain is also hampered by expense, the effects of commodity pricing, inefficiency and under production. The yield of Artemisinin is naturally low; even high yielding chemovars contain just 1% Artemisinin (dry weight), However, the yield is limited still further by some basic agronomic problems, which would be readily tackled in enhanced farming systems and exploration of new cultivation sites.

This project aims to tackle agronomic issues relating to the cultivation of Artemisia and to evaluate existing germplasm to identify the best lines for enhanced cultivation. The quantities and quality of the active ingredient Artemisinin will be assayed in parallel with assessment of the agronomic qualities of the crop.

BDL has, in place, an Artemisia supply chain, including extraction, clean-up and re-crystallisation of the Artemisinin contained within the plant – using extraction technology and subsequent Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) conversion of this material to the required active compound Artesunate. The world market for Artemisinin, is sizeable, and demand presently exceeds supply.

1. Determine the quality and biodiversity of available Artemisia sp germplasm.

2. Review the relationship between the biochemistry of the active ingredients and extraction processes in order to optimise agronomic specifications.

3. Determine agronomy requirements of the crop for cultivation under a range of conditions.

4. Assess requirements for harvest, processing and delivery.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2005

To: 2006

Cost: £140,046
Contractor / Funded Organisations
National Institute of Agricultural Botany, East Malling Research, Botanical Developments Ltd
Arable Farming              
Fields of Study
Non-Food Crops