Chinese scientists have isolated several compounds with antimalarial activity from species of Artemisia. These include artemisinin (Qinghaosu), artesunate, and artemether. These sesquiterpene peroxides are potent and rapidly acting antimalarial drugs that show relatively low human toxicity. They are active against blood stages, especially in patients with severe manifestations, such as cerebral malaria and chloroquine-resistant malarial infections. They possess activity against the erythrocytic stages of human malaria and have no effect on the liver or exoerythrocytic stage of the parasite; their gameticidal activity is not clear. They are most useful in treating life-threatening cerebral edema. At present artemisinin, artesunate, and artemether are available outside the United States.
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