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Artemisinin revitalizes war against Malaria in Kenya

07 October 2015, 18:03

Nairobi - The discovery of artemisinin by Chinese scientist, Tu Youyou, who was named alongside Japanese and Irish scientists as 2015 Nobel Prize Winners in Physiology or Medicine, has revolutionalized the war against malaria in Kenya, an official said on Tuesday.

Waqo Erjesa, the head of malaria control program in Kenya's ministry of health, said Tu's landmark discovery of artemisinin dealt a fatal blow to the tropical disease that is a leading cause of deaths in the east African nation.

"A Nobel Prize landing in the world of malaria is commendable, and the discovery of artemisinin by the Chinese scientist was a breakthrough in the fight against the killer disease. This drug has saved many lives," Erjesa told Xinhua during an interview in Nairobi.

The Nobel Assembly at Sweden's Karolinska Institute on Monday named Tu a Nobel Prize Winner in medicine for her discovery of a novel therapy against malaria.

Also read: CORD MPs call on Uhuru to come clean over Ruto ICC fixing

Kenyan officials and medical researchers joined their counterparts from other African countries to congratulate Tu for her priceless contribution to the war against malaria.

Erjesa noted that Kenya has managed to reduce deaths related to malaria thanks to availability of artemisinin at a subsidized cost in public health facilities.

"Artemisinin had profound impacts on households grappling with the high cost of treating malaria," said Erjesa, adding that Kenyan research community has been inspired by Tu's tireless effort to find a cure for malaria.

Malaria is still a major public health challenge in Kenya with immense socio-economic impacts. Erjesa clarified the country has not recorded any major outbreak since 2003, though the tropical disease transmitted by mosquitoes remains a leading cause of deaths among pregnant women and children below five years.

Kenya is winning the war against malaria thanks to intensive use of artemisinin to treat the disease, improved surveillance and diagnostics as well as public awareness.

Erjesa said that Kenyan regulators have approved artemisinin in malaria case management due to its efficacy, safety and affordability.

"Different versions of Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) are available in public hospitals for free to treat malaria. The drug is more effective than quinine or chloroquin and has not demonstrated any sign of resistance," Erjesa told Xinhua.

He added that Kenyan regulators have been conducting therapeutic efficacy test on artemisinin every two years.

"The last test we conducted on artemisinin in 2014 proved it is 98 percent effective. This drug is affordable to many people and costs less than one dollar," said Erjesa.

Kenya has been procuring artemisinin from the international market to help combat malaria effectively. Erjesa revealed the government has as well procured artesunate injections from a Chinese pharmaceutical company.

The Chinese government has made significant investments in Kenya`s health sector, and China has provided technology and skills to boost response to infectious diseases in Kenya, said Erjesa.

"The Chinese government has provided capacity building to our health officers. Every year, these officers visit China to learn how the country won the war against malaria," he said, adding that the Chinese government has been supportive in providing equipment for Kenya's ultra modern malaria reference laboratory.

- Xinhua


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