Artemisinin is a drug used to treat multi-drug resistant strains of falciparum malaria. The compound (a sesquiterpene lactone) is isolated from the shrub Artemisia annua long used in traditional Chinese medicine.
- Antiparasitic: ex. antischistosomal
- Antiviral: ex. HPV
- as antiangiogenetic
- as productor of ROS
- as proapoptotic by p53 -dependent and -independent pathways
- Antiinflammatory: The inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) gene in macrophages catalyzes the generation of NO, which is involved in inflammation and immune response.
The specific mechanism of action of artemisinin is not well understood, and there is ongoing research directed at elucidating it. When the parasite that causes malaria infects a red blood cell, it consumes hemoglobin and liberates free heme, an iron-porphyrin complex. The iron reduces the peroxide bond in artemisinin generating high-valent iron-oxo species, resulting in a cascade of reactions that produce reactive oxygen radicals which damage the parasite leading to its death.
Artemisinin as anticancer drug?
- Neurotoxicity 1 + 2 = Unanswered
occurs particularly following repeated high-dose intramuscular
injections of the oil-based dihydroartemisinin derivatives artemether and artemotil (arteether).