Artemisin (malaria treatment)

Malaria is a devastating worldwide burden, with 229 million estimated cases in 2019 (WHO). Thus, the discovery of artemisin, current first-line malaria treatment, is considered an outstanding finding.

The pharmacological chemists Tu Youyou researched the plant sweet wormwood (Artimisia annua), used to treat intermittent fever (malaria symptom) by ancient traditional Chinese medicine. She and her team isolated the active ingredient responsible for the therapeutic effect of the plant, ‘Qinghaosu’ or artemisin.

Tu Youyou was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015 “for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria”, and she described artemisin as “a true gift from old Chinese medicine”.

Written by: Enriqueta Vallejo-Yagüe.