Artemisinin and derivatives: the future for malaria treatment? Curr Opin Infect Dis 14: 719-726

Author(s): Haynes RK


The isolation in 1972 of artemisinin by Chinese scientists, and their development of all the derivatives now used in the treatment of malaria today, were of outstanding importance. The results which have accumulated both from the Chinese work and from that subsequently conducted on a worldwide basis provide for a relatively comprehensive understanding of the chemistry, pharmacological profiles, toxicology, metabolism, and effects on the malaria parasite. The optimal regimens for use in the field are also apparent, particularly in combinations with longer half-life quinoline antimalarials. Thus the future use of the artemisinin class of drug appears assured. However, the mechanism of action needs to be clarified. More importantly from a clinical viewpoint, problems inherent in the current derivatives must be addressed, particularly that of neurotoxicity, if new artemisinin derivatives are to be introduced in a normal drug regulatory environment. The application of established principles of modern drug design should indeed allow for the first truly rationally designed, in so far as the target is still unknown, derivatives to come to hand.

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