The BBC reports that, “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.”
- The Centre for Novel Agricultural Products at the University of York is using fast-track plant breeding to increase yields of artemisinin from the medicinal plant.
- The Institute for One World Health is using synthetic biology to produce artemisinin through fermentation and subsequent chemical conversion.
- The Medicines for Malaria Venture is developing novel synthetic artemisinin-like compounds.
RBM explains that, “All three approaches are needed to satisfy projected global demand for ACTs. The projects are collaborating to ensure maximum impact on ACT supply chains and to ensure the new technologies do not enter substandard drug or monotherapy supply chains.” A full report of the recent conference that explored these options can be found at the website of Centre for Novel Agricultural Products.
In the meantime research needs to continue on other natural plant derivatives for curing malaria to avoid the dangers of having only one main tool for achieving and maintaining treatment levels needed to eliminate the disease. Of course, rational use of ACTs now is crucial.