Medical Definition of Artemisinin

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Artemisinin: Artemisinin: Artemisia (Artemisia annua), also known as sweet Annie or annual wormwood, is an annual herb native to China, where it is known as qinghao. Artemisia is mentioned in the Chinese Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergency Treatments of 340 AD for treatment of fevers. Artemisinin, pronounced ar-te-mis'-in-in with the accent on the mis, was first isolated in 1965 by Chinese military researchers.

Artemisinin has been found to act rapidly and potently against the malarial parasite, including some drug-resistant strains. Without significant side effects, it quickly reduces fever and lowers the blood levels of the parasite. Treatments containing an artemisinin derivative (artemisinin-combination therapies, ACTs) are now standard treatment worldwide for P. falciparum malaria.

To decrease the risk of resistance, artemisinin is taken as part of a ""cocktail."" The cocktail of artemisinin and lumefantrine (Benflumetol) is marketed as Coartem and Riamet.

Artemisinin is also in studies for cancer treatment and for helminth parasites. The discovery of artemisinin is reportedly being considered for a Nobel Prize in Medicine.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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