Lab boost for precious anti-malaria drug

US scientists on Wednesday said they had used baker's yeast to make a key ingredient of malaria drugs, a feat that could iron out fluctuations in supply caused by sourcing the chemical from a Chinese herb.

One of the revolutions in in recent decades has been the advent of artemisinin drugs, whose active ingredient comes from a traditional Chinese herb, Artemisia annua.

But weather can affect harvests of the plant, causing shortages and .

In a study published in Nature, a team led by Chris Paddon of Amyris Inc., a biotech firm based in Emeryville, California, reported on a way to ferment artemisinic acid—a precursor to artemisinin—from genetically-engineered baker's yeast.

Their technique derives 25 grammes of concentrate from a litre of artemisinic acid. A previous attempt, reported by a European team last year, made only 1.6 grammes per litre.

The artemisinic acid can then be converted to artemisin by a simple chemical process using oxygen as a catalyst.

"Because all intellectual property rights have been provided free of charge, this technology has the potential to increase provision of first-line antimalarial treatments to the developing world at a reduced average annual price," the researchers said.

In 2010 there were more than 200 million cases of malaria, and at least 655,000 deaths, according to the UN's .

More information: dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature12051

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New process would make anti-malarial drug less costly

May 23, 2012

Scientists are reporting development of a new, higher-yield, two-step, less costly process that may ease supply problems and zigzagging prices for the raw material essential for making the mainstay drug for ...

New malaria method could boost drug production

Feb 16, 2012

German scientists have developed a new way to make a key malaria drug that they say could easily quadruple production and drop the price significantly, increasing the availability of treatment for a disease that kills hundreds ...

Recommended for you

Sierra Leone faces criticism over Ebola shutdown

7 hours ago

Sierra Leone began the second day of a 72-hour nationwide shutdown aimed at containing the spread of the deadly Ebola virus on Saturday amid criticism that the action was a poorly planned publicity stunt.

Presence of peers ups health workers' hand hygiene

22 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The presence of other health care workers improves hand hygiene adherence, according to a study published in the October issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

Sierra Leone streets deserted as shutdown begins

Sep 19, 2014

Sierra Leone's normally chaotic capital resembled a ghost town on Friday as residents were confined to their homes for the start of a three-day lockdown aimed at halting the deadly Ebola epidemic.

Sierra Leone launches controversial Ebola shutdown

Sep 19, 2014

Sierra Leone on Friday launched a controversial three-day shutdown to contain the deadly spread of the Ebola virus, as the UN Security Council declared the deadly outbreak a threat to world peace.

User comments