Over 850,000 people were reported to have died in 2010 from
Malaria, a preventable disease. An accurate number is hard to
establish, yet given that same year an estimated 250 million people
around the world were infected by the mosquito borne infection, the
death rate could be far higher.
Scientists have been searching for a treatment that can be
delivered through the areas most affected by the infection, from Uganda,
Kenya, Pakistan to the South East Asian regions of Cambodia, Vietnam
to Indonesia that is not only effective but affordable.
For travelers from Western nations who venture into these regions
prevention from the potentially deadly disease comes in the form of a
pill, easily and readily available.
It’s not that easy for poverty stricken nations to harness this illness, and basically its simply a matter of money.
This week a breakthrough has been announced for the development
that will deliver a cheap and effective malaria treatment that has
culminated in years of research and now a collaborative effort between
the University of California, and the Canadian National Research Council
and OneWorld Health.
Yet it was with the funding from the Canadian Government and a
significant investment from the Bill and Melissa Gates foundation that
the research has been taken to the production stage.
Overall $42 million has been invested into research and development
by the Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation aiming to be able to trigger
the delivery a drug around the world on a not-for-profit basis.
The breakthrough announced last week was significant when
scientists were able to crack the genetic code of the most common
treatment of Malaria, using artemisinin.
The compound, to date, was naturally produced in the sweet wormwood plant, that is found in subtropical regions.
Since the identification of the gene in 2003 scientists have been
struggling to find a way to reproduce the compound which removes the
labor and logistically difficult methods in which it was necessary to
extract artemisinin from the trees.
At the University of California that seemingly insurmountable
problem was overcome when scientists found a method to double the
production of artemisinin when two genes were injected into yeast.
It’s positive news, but even better as the drug is believed to be potentially on the market in 2012.
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