From Associated Press, via Yahoo News:
German scientists have developed a new way to make a key malaria drug that they say could easily quadruple production and drop the price significantly, increasing the availability of treatment for a disease that kills hundreds of thousands every year.
Chemists at the Max Planck Institute take the waste product from the creation of the drug artemisinin — artemisinic acid — and convert it into the drug itself.
The entire apparatus is compact, about the size of a carry-on suitcase, and inexpensive. That means it can be easily added to production sites anywhere around the world. Artemisinin is extracted from sweet wormwood, a plant that primarily grows in China and Vietnam and varies in its availability according to the season. In the extraction process, for every part artemisinin produced, there is 10 times the amount of artemisinic acid discarded as waste.
Areas to think about:
- What are the cost implications of this breakthrough?
- What do you know about the origins of using wormwood extracts to treat malaria?
- Which wormwood-based, and mildly hallucinogenic, drink became popular as a result of that usage? Which compound in that drink is responsible for its effects?