The University of Jos through its Centre for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering has developed and successfully cultivated a plant known as Artemisia annua used in the treatment of malaria to address the increasing resistance of malaria parasite to anti-malaria drugs.
The institution has cultivated and harvested 283kilogrammes of dry Artemisia annua leaves which is a major component of combination therapies used widely to treat malaria.
This was revealed by the Vice chancellor of the University, Professor Hayward Mafuyai at a press briefing within the Senate chambers of the University. He attributed the success of the research to the “multi-disciplinary scientists from the field of biotechnology, chemistry, pharmacy, zoology and plant sciences that carried our studies on the strains of Artemisia annua and was subsequently developed and cultivated it in Gangnim area of Langtang South local government area of the state.”
According to the Vice Chancellor, “Artemisinin which is the major component of combination therapies used to treat malaria in the form of Artemisin combination therapy act is currently adjudged the best solution to the increasing resistance of malaria parasite to anti-malaria drugs.”
He noted that the scientists carried out studies on strains of the plant to determine its sustainability for growth in different soil types in Plateau state. “The commercial production in large quantity of the malaria active-principle-producing Artemisia annua in the state has confirmed the viability of the production of this wonder plant in Nigeria where malaria scourge is massive.” he said.
Professor Mafuyai further explained that the project was funded under the Science and Technology for post-basic education (Step-B) project of the Federal Ministry of Education and the World Bank. “The University of Jos procured the Artemisia annua seeds from China and began testing its survival and productivity which eventually resulted in the discovery of its survival and mass production” he added.
Narrating the tedious routine involved in the research, the Vic-Chancellor stated that “four year of rigorous research and tests produce the result which can solve the malaria scourge in the country as well as providing job opportunities for Nigerians as explained by leader of the research team.”
The Professor enjoined pharmaceutical companies to partner with the University of Jos on the discovery, and also work with local farmers to acquire adequate quantity of the plant and engage in local production of Artemisinin for the treatment of malaria. He noted the local production of Artemisinin “will surely stimulate the local pharmaceutical industry and bring down the cost of anti-malaria drugs as well as checking the problems of fake drugs associated with importation.”
Thousands of Nigerians (old and young) are killed annually by malaria.