A new study has revealed that whole plant therapy shows promise to beat malaria parasites’ drug resistance. University of Massachusetts Amherst microbiologist Stephen Rich and his research team said that the new treatment is based on a use of the whole plant (WP) Artemesia annua, from which the current pharmaceutical drug artemisinin (AN) is extracted.

The researchers found that the whole plant treatment withstands the evolution of resistance and remains effective for up to three times longer than the pure drug and also found the whole plant therapy effective in killing rodent parasites that have previously evolved resistance to pure AN. Rich said that this is especially important given the recent reports of resistance to artemisinin in malaria -endemic regions of the world and drug longevity is crucial since new drugs are costly to develop, not only in dollars but in the cost of lives lost.

The authors point out that consuming the whole plant may be more effective than the single purified drug because the whole plant “may constitute a naturally occurring combination therapy that augments artemisinin delivery and synergizes the drug’s activity.” The study was published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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