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Kenyan scientists hail Chinese medicine for reducing malaria deaths

08 October 2015, 21:30

Nairobi - The herbal drug artemisinin that was discovered by Chinese female scientist Tu Youyou who was among the three 2015 Nobel Prize Winners in medicine was a game changer in the fight against malaria, a Kenyan scientist said on Wednesday.

Francis Kimani, the head of malaria program at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), said unlike previous anti-malaria drugs, artemisinin has stood out in terms of efficacy and safety to patients.

"I can say artemisinin was an invention that injected fresh impetus in the fight against malaria. Earlier drugs have not effectively tackled the killer disease which has ravaged populations in the tropics for too long," Kimani told Xinhua in an interview.

He added the scientific community felt honored when Tu was awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering a novel therapy to treat malaria.

"The award came at the appropriate time and reaffirms global recognition of artemisinin as first line treatment for malaria. It was a victory to the scientific community involved in malaria research," said Kimani.

Also read: Man stabs girlfriend 7 times, takes poison in Nairobi estate

Kenyan scientists have conducted intensive research on artemisinin to ascertain its efficacy and safety to malaria patients.

According to Kimani, the Chinese herbal drug has generated curiosity from Kenyan medical researchers due to its rich therapeutic properties.

"Artemisinin interferes with body functions of the malaria causing parasite, plasmodium. It inhibits the parasite from infecting human blood with malaria," Kimani told Xinhua.

He added artemisinin will be used to treat malaria for a longer period since no replacement was in sight.

Health advocates joined Kenyan scientists in applauding Tu You you for discovering artemisinin that secured her the 2015 Nobel Prize in medicine.

Estrella Lasry, the Tropical Medicine Advisor at the medical charity, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said Tu's tireless devotion to research on a cure for malaria had lasting impact globally.

"It was great to have a Chinese scientist win a Nobel Prize in medicine and it was a confirmation that scientific research on tropical diseases had finally been recognized," Lasry told Xinhua.

She thanked the Nobel committee for rewarding scientists who have devoted massive energy towards elimination of diseases that affect the poor.

The CEO of Kenya NGOs Alliance against Malaria (KENAAM) Edward Mwangi noted that local communities have benefitted from discovery of artemisinin to treat malaria.

"Malaria treatment is readily available at a friendly cost to local communities affected by the disease. So far, it is the best treatment available in the market," said Mwangi.

Kenya remains a malaria hotspot despite massive investments in high impact interventions to tame the disease.

According to the Ministry of Health, Kenya has been recording one million cases of malaria every month.


- Xinhua


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