First Genetic Map Of Malaria Drug Plant Could Increase Crop Yields, Study Says

The first genetic map of the plant Artemisia annua, which could “help scientists develop the species into a high-yielding crop” to fight malaria, was published in a study in the journal Science on Thursday, Reuters reports (Kelland, 1/14).

The plant is used to produce artemisinin, a “potent weapon” in malaria treatments, according to VOA News, which notes that “supplies of the medication are limited because” Artemisia annua is “a low-yielding wild plant.” The news service continues, “As a result, artemisinin costs ten times more than other anti-malarials, so it is used sparingly in combination with other drugs to boost their effectiveness” (Berman, 1/14).

The new genetic map, “drawn up a team led by Dianna Bowles and Ian Graham, of the University of York, will help to alleviate this shortage by accelerating breeding programmes for higher-yielding crops,” London’s Times reports. The research was funded by two grants worth $26 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, according to the Times (Henderson, 1/15).

Bowles said, “The map is already proving to be an essential tool for us. With our new understanding of Artemisia genetics, we can produce improved, non-GM varieties … much faster than would otherwise be possible,” Reuters reports (1/14). Graham said the scientists’ goal “is to have hybrid seeds that can be released to farmers in the developing world by 2011 or 2012. With a year lag for planting, this would have an impact on supply in 2012 or 2013,” BBC writes (Walton, 1/14).

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Headquarters: 185 Berry St., Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94107 | Phone 650-854-9400
Washington Offices and Barbara Jordan Conference Center: 1330 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005 | Phone 202-347-5270

www.kff.org | Email Alerts: kff.org/email | facebook.com/KaiserFamilyFoundation | twitter.com/kff

Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.