Malaria is one of the worst sicknesses to affect humankind. For centuries there was no specific treatment, and it was not until the seventeenth century that Spanish colonisers brought back from Peru tree bark from which quinine was later extracted. In the twentieth century, synthetic alternatives to quinine were developed. Of these, chloroquine was the most successful, but by the 1970s widespread resistance had developed and the world was left without an effective treatment for malaria. During the same decade Chinese scientists extracted from sweet wormwood plant the drug artemisinin, which has proved to be very effective against chloroquine-resistant malarial parasites. The use of a combination therapy including artemisinin has made it possible to contemplate the eradication of malaria. Efforts to produce a stable and inexpensive supply of artemisinin are under way.
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