Malaria Day: April 25, 2020
Key words : Malaria, Africa, Artemisia annua, medicinal plant, COVID-19.
What is the relation between Artemisia annua and COVID-19 pandemic?
In Europe and Africa, a better knowledge of the Chinese pharmacopoeia would effectively complement the fight against many diseases, including COVID-19. China has taken a series of measures that combine Chinese traditional medicine and Western medicine.
The Chinese Pharmacopoeia includes a wide range of plants used both preventively and curatively and whose research shows a potential against viruses, including COVID-19. Among them, both African and European researchers recommend Artemisia annua.
Artemisia annua, SARS and COVID-19
Against viruses, laboratory tests showed in 2003 that it was effective against the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus after Lycoris radiata, which is unfortunately not widely available outside Asia.
Trials with other plants showed that those containing certain sterols (notably Beta-sisterol and stigmasterol), quercetin and luteolin were effective against various viruses, and, in the case of quercetin, also against COVID-19. However, Artemisia annua contains all these chemical compounds, thus confirming its poly-therapeutic character, which explains in particular its lower sensitivity to resistances against malaria.
The plant is cited in Chinese medical records, traces of which have been found since the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), as a plant of well-being, effective against various ailments. Its broad spectrum as an immuno-stimulator and anti-inflammatory and the absence of side effects makes this plant a kind of shield against many infectious diseases. It is believed that it strengthens the microbiota which is now known to play a crucial role in the general protection of our body.
China recommends the plant against COVID-19 in combination with other plants and control methods borrowed from Western medicine according to the stages of the disease.
Benefits of this solution
The plant has several advantages. First, it is not toxic, because the only components with a risk of toxicity (notably artemisinin) are found in the plant only at infinitesimal doses. Moreover, unlike chloroquine treatments, it has no known adverse side effects if the dosage indicated by doctors is respected.
Moreover, Artemisia annua is available in Europe: in addition to the fact that everyone can grow it in their own garden or on their balcony, natural extracts are sold on the internet, or in pharmacies in homeopathic form. It would therefore seem appropriate to test the plant as a prophylactic and curative means against COVID-19 here in Europe as a complement to other means implemented, medicine or vaccine that may not be available before the end of 2020. On the other hand, if the simple and inexpensive clinical tests with the plant are carried out quickly, Europe could produce the quantities needed to protect future victims of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, the commercialization of Artemisia annua remains prohibited in Europe and the WHO is opposed to its generalization in Africa as long as complementary in vivo research has not been carried out according to the standards of this organization.
For Europe and the fight against COVID-19, simple research on its preventive and curative capacities has been proposed and should be able to be carried out rapidly.
Indeed, La Maison de l’Artemisia, a French NGO, has submitted to the French army a study on the use of Artemisia annua as a remedy against COVID-19. The protocol is based on the hypothesis that the proposed dosage could prevent the patient from falling into a more severe stage of the disease.
IDAY has also investigated this issue and the potential value of Artemisia annua as a prophylaxis against COVID-19. It would be interesting to conduct clinical studies based on the hypothesis that the plant enhances immunity and could help to stop the continuation of the disease. If the results of the clinical studies are convincing, this would make it possible to have a production that would allow access to the plant as early as this fall.
In the field, the plant is experiencing a growing interest!
The plant is integrated in the school garden. Students and teachers learn how to cultivate it. Families are made aware of the use of medicinal plants. awareness raising and training projects are underway in 73 schools in Guinea, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Togo, Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
Example of projects: https://iday.org/news/des-jardins-scolaires-au-cameroun/
The local and national authorities are always involved in the process in order to observe the impact of the project on the health of the pupils and on their school results. They are solicited by IDAY to then multiply these projects on a larger scale.
Actors in the field get organized
Stakeholder alliances are being developed to build advocacy actions and awaken authorities to the benefits of the plant. This is the case in North Kivu (IDAY alliance – Maison de l’Artemisia – Civil Society Health – En Avant les Enfants). It is also the case in Rwanda.
Example of alliance: https://iday.org/en/news-en/artemisia-training-in-goma
In terms of clinical research, things are moving
IDAY obtained the interest of the Belgian government to financially support clinical research on the use of the plant in malaria prevention. We are looking for a Belgian academic partner to conduct this research.
A Consortium of internationally renowned research institutes has been formed to carry out clinical studies on the plant used as a cure for malaria. This research in accordance with the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO) could allow it to authorize the inclusion of the plant in the programs of several United Nations organizations with a considerable impact in the field, thus leading to a massive action against malaria and other tropical diseases treated with the plant.
On the occasion of World Malaria Day on April 25, it is worth remembering that the plant offers the best protection against this scourge: it is less sensitive to resistance, which undermines pharmaceutical products; it is a repellent against the mosquito vector; it can be used as a preventive as well as a curative; it is compatible with the tradition of African community medicine, which is still used by 70% of Africans; and is today the only way to offer effective, equitable and sustainable treatment of malaria, as it is more accessible to all and cheaper to produce
The plant provides artemisinin, which is the main component of the Artimisinine-Based Combination Therapy (ACT) which has reduced the incidence of malaria by more than 2/3 worldwide. The plant is an immunostimulator known to the Chinese for more than 2,000 years. It is effective against all kinds of tropical infectious diseases (schistosomiasis, leichmaniasis, intestinal infections, …).
It is therefore very interesting to note that many doctors and researchers, mainly in the East, are interested in this natural, effective and inexpensive solution in the fight against COVID-19.
The IDAY network, with more than 600 member associations in 20 African countries, has been working on the Artemisia annua plant since 2011. Indeed, the objective of the network is to improve the quality of education and as you know, in Africa, it is difficult to talk about education without talking about health. According to the latest report of the World Health Organization, malaria still kills more than 375,000 people every year, including 250,000 children under 5 years old, and contributes largely to the absenteeism of teachers and students in schools. However, the potential of Artemisia annua against certain tropical diseases is now obvious.