When the standard malaria medications failed to help 18 critically ill patients, the attending physician in a Congo clinic acted under the “compassionate use” doctrine and prescribed a not-yet-approved malaria therapy made only from the dried leaves of the Artemisia annua plant. In just five days, all 18 people fully recovered. This small but stunningly successful trial offers hope to address the growing problem of drug-resistant malaria.
Details of the cases are documented in the paper “Artemisia annua dried leaf tablets treated malaria resistant to ACT and i.v. artesunate: case reports” by an international team lead by Pamela Weathers, PhD, professor of biology and biotechnology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), who has pioneered the use of dried leaves of Artemisia annua (DLA) as a malaria therapy.
“To our knowledge, this is the first report of dried-leaf Artemisia annua controlling ACT-resistant malaria in humans,” the authors of the Phytomedicine paper note, adding that more comprehensive clinical trials on patients with drug-resistant malaria are warranted. “Successful treatment of all 18 ACT-resistant cases suggests that DLA should be rapidly incorporated into the antimalarial regimen for Africa,” they added, “and possibly wherever else ACT resistance has emerged.”