Artemisinin plays key role in combating malaria in Africa

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LUANDA - Artemisinin has played a key role in combating malaria in Angola though the disease remained the largest killer in the African country, a leading Chinese physician said Monday.

Official statistics showed that over 4,000 people, including some 50 Chinese expatriates died of malaria in the year 2014 due to delays in diagnosis and treatment, said Zhang Jie, president of the Chinese-funded Yong Yan Hospital in southern Luanda.

Malaria was easy to cure with early diagnosis and the help of Artemisinin, Zhang said, adding the high mortality rates occurred in Angola mostly among pregnant women or children under the age of five from impoverished families in remote areas of the country.

Artemisinin played a key role and became the first choice of medicine in fighting against malaria at almost all hospitals in Angola, said Zhang who expressed congratulation to Chinese scientist Tu Youyou who shared the 2015 Nobel prize in medicine with William Campbell and Japanese scientist Satoshi Omura.

Irish-born Campbell and Omura won half of the prize for discovering a new drug, avermectin, that has helped the battle against river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, as well as showing effectiveness against other parasitic diseases.

Tu was awarded the other half of the prize for discovering artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced the mortality rates for patients suffering from malaria.

These two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people in the world, according to Juleen R. Zierath, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine.

"We all know how dangerous malaria is in Angola but we also know artemisinin is very effective in curing the disease," said Wang Zhiqiang, a chinese businessmen who operated a transport company in Angola.
"I contracted malaria for six times in the past seven years and each time I was cured by artemisinin", said Wang.

Despite rapid progress in controlling malaria in the past decade, the mosquito-borne disease still kills more than half a million people a year, the vast majority of them babies and young children in the poorest parts of Africa.

"We know artemisinin can prevent and cure malaria and almost all Chinese companies operating in Angola had artemisinin drugs," said Zhao Hongbin, secretary general of the Chinese chamber of commerce in Angola.

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