Semi-synthetic Chemical Medicines

8. Example - Anti-malarial medicines

Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a parasite, such as the parasitic microorganism Plasmodium, which is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. Patients with malaria initially experience relatively mild flu-like symptoms, but the disease can rapidly become life-threatening and cause breathing problems or organ failure.


Figure 3.4 Artemisia annua (source here)

The plant sweet woodworm (Artemisia annua) has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat infections with Plasmodium. The medicinally active chemical component of sweet woodworm is called artemisinin, and was successfully isolated in 1972. Since then, semi-synthetic production of artemisinin has considerably improved its pharmaceutical properties, and derivatives of artemisinin are now commonly used as anti-malarial medicines throughout the world.