China's artemisinin-based malaria therapy gets a big hand

China got international plaudits on the recent World Malaria Day not so much for handling its own cases of the disease but for providing the world with what one expert called "the best" treatment, artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT).

A World Health Organization official said the weed from China has been responsible for benefiting about 240 million people in sub-Saharan Africa since 2000.

Artemisinin was isolated from the artemisia plant found in China and used for centuries in Chinese traditional medicine. As ACT, it is considered the fastest-acting of all current treatments for the disease that claimed 584,000 lives in 2013 and averages near that annually.

China is the world's largest producer of artemisinin, considered the key to battling the disease around the world. The head of WHO's Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership noted that 95% of the annual deaths are among children under 5 years of age, most of them in Africa.

Herve Verhoosel, head of the RBM office in New York, said the malaria fight needs more funds, commitment and political leadership for the "last push" to end the scourge, which has been in decline since 2000 in 64 of the 98 countries that recorded epidemics of it.

He said those 64 were on track to meeting United Nations goals to bring malaria under control.

- here's the story from Xinhua