Technology to eradicate malaria: Hope for millions
This is good news for the poor world where thousands of people are killed by mosquitos.
Emerging technologies could boost supplies of essential plant-based drugs to combat and ultimately help eradicate malaria, says a report.
In the face of increasing parasite resistance to anti-malarial drugs there is now great reliance on artemisinin combination therapies to treat malaria.
But ACTs are expensive and demand threatens to outstrip supply.
Plant breeding, new drugs and clever ways to make artemisinin in the lab are the answer, according to world experts.
The report is based on the conclusions of the Artemisinin Enterprise Conference 2008, which was sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and hosted by the University of York.
It assesses a portfolio of new technologies, collectively known as The Artemisinin Enterprise.
Around 100 million ACTs were sold in 2006, but forecasters say that demand will at least double over the next four years, potentially growing to over 300 million doses annually.
This is partly due to a recent decision by the global malaria community to subsidise the cost of ACTs.
There is already expected to be a shortage in 2010 owing to a lack of the Artemisia annua wormwood plant plant, the raw material for ACTs, being grown.
Malaria experts say three emerging technologies have the potential to fill this gap.
The Centre for Novel Agricultural Products at the University of York is using fast-track plant breeding to create crops that produce higher yields of artemisinin.
The centre has decided against using GM crops because of time delay that would be incurred to overcome the associated regulatory hurdles