With the Covid-19 crisis, the last few weeks have made Artemisia a little better known worldwide. It is a plant that is said to be able to help treat not only malaria but also Covid-19. Media reports have shown how much interest there is among heads of state and government in Africa, such as in Madagascar, where the President was seen drinking a herbal tea made from this medicinal plant for this purpose.
Since 2014, with the help of Dr. Cornet-Vernet, Fondacio has promoted the cultivation of Artemisia in five African countries. On this continent, malaria is a scourge. In 2018, 94% of the 405 000 malaria-related deaths were in Africa, with children being the first victims: proving the effectiveness of Artemisia annua is therefore a major challenge. Originally from China, this plant has been included in the pharmacopoeia there for 2 000 years. Artemisia's active substance, artemisinin, which won a Nobel Prize in 2015, is a molecule that is difficult to synthesize. Its manufacture has revolutionized malaria treatments but it remains expensive.
However, the WHO (World Health Organisation) opposes the use of plants such as Artemisia annua for the treatment of malaria, even if they contain artemisinin and cost nothing. Indeed, the WHO is waiting for studies that can reassure it. Because, on the one hand, it must be possible to guarantee that Artemisia does not cause undesirable or even dangerous effects in the case of massive intake. On the other hand, the use and dosage of the plant remain too random: there is a non-standardization of this phytotherapy, with a variable artemisinin rate depending on the quality of the plant. Carrying out a scientific study requires at least two million euros, but "who is going to pay for studies for a plant that everyone can grow at home? There's no money for that kind of thing," stresses Dr Cornet-Vernet.
But Covid-19 is going to change that, because Artemisia annua could be effective in treating the disease. Already, "China has published a kind of manual of what it has used as a treatment against Covid-19 [...] Artemisia annua has a very special place in this dosage," stresses Dr. Cornet Vernet. Studies must be started as soon as possible: a study has just started in Germany, and another similar one should start in Congo DRC.
With Artemisia, as with research on the Covid-19 vaccine, we would really like to see this not be a matter of economic interests, but the willingness of States united together to support, hand in hand, the research and development of treatments for the good of all, especially those who need them most.
By François PROUTEAU
🌿 Read a well-documented article on Artemisia on France Info with an interview of Dr Lucile Cornet-Vernet (in French): https://mobile.francetvinfo.fr/monde/afrique/societe-africaine/du-traitement-du-paludisme-au-covid-19-pourquoi-les-vertus-de-l-artemisia-interessent-les-africains_3946581.html