A Chinese herb, sweet wormwood plant, that is strikingly effective against malaria is in critically short supply because of rising demand, Donald G. McNeil Jr. reports. Supply crises are looming in 40 tropical countries that have recently made it the centerpiece of their antimalarial efforts.
Malaria kills about one million people a year, most of them children. Artemisinin is extracted from the sweet wormwood plant/ It has been considered the most cost-effective solution.
Mr. McNeil reports, wormwood is an ancient Asian fever treatment, and Chinese military doctors trying to aid the Vietcong in the 1970's proved that its extracts kill malaria parasites. It has been popular in Southeast Asia, but was largely ignored in the West until this year.
Iimmediately after the W.H.O.'s April forecast that the world would need 130 to 220 tons of wormwood in 2005, the price rose to $180 a pound. It is now $365 to $455 a pound. (Source: Donald G. McNeil Jr., The New York Times, Nov.14, 2004).