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Tobacco Plants Capable of Producing “Artemisinin,” an anti-Malaria Drug: Scientists

Tobacco is a hardy plant and when the gene is inserted, a precursor compound of artemisinin shows up in its broad sturdy leaves

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FILE - A farm worker harvests tobacco leaves at a farm in Harare, Zimbabwe, March 3, 2015. Scientists have found that malaria-fighting compound artemisinin can be grown in tobacco plants. VOA
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October 21, 2016: Scientists say they have figured out a way to use tobacco plants to produce artemisinin, a highly effective anti-malaria drug.

Malaria infects an estimated 200 million people each year, resulting in 400,000 deaths. The drug artemisinin is sometimes used to treat the mosquito-borne illness, clearing the parasite from the bloodstream within 48 hours, according to experts. However, it is very expensive.

[bctt tweet=”Artemisinin comes from an herbal plant grown in China called sweet wormwood.” username=””]

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Artemisinin comes from an herbal plant grown in China called sweet wormwood. It takes 18 months to grow, extract and produce only a small amount of the effective compound, according to bioengineer Shashi Kumar at the U.N. International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in New Delhi.

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“That increases the cost of this drug, and the people who are suffering most and poor are not able to afford this costly drug,” Kumar said. “That is why we are looking at some source which can be grown everywhere, like the African continent or the Indian continent, easily. Tobacco is that crop.”

Kumar and colleagues have figured out a way to insert wormwood genes into tobacco plants.

FILE - А malaria worker is seen carrying a traditional medicine kit in a village near Pailin, Cambodia, Aug. 29, 2009. Scientists have found that conventional kits could be replaced with artemisinin, a cheap but highly effective anti-malaria drug. VOA
FILE – А malaria worker is seen carrying a traditional medicine kit in a village near Pailin, Cambodia, Aug. 29, 2009. Scientists have found that conventional kits could be replaced with artemisinin, a cheap but highly effective anti-malaria drug. VOA

Tobacco is a hardy plant and when the gene is inserted, a precursor compound of artemisinin shows up in its broad sturdy leaves.

Scientists at the U.N. Center tested the effectiveness of tobacco-produced artemisinin on rodents infected with Plasmodium berghei, a parasite that causes malaria in rats and is often used as an experimental model for genetic engineered treatments. Kumar said the artemisinin from tobacco leaves was more effective than the currently available drug.

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But more tests are needed to see whether the tobacco-derived artemisinin drug is equally effective against P. falciparum, the parasite that causes the most dangerous form of the disease in humans.

Kumar and colleagues are now looking at ways to grow the anti-malaria drug in other, more edible plants.

“What we can do [is] we put this drug into edible plants like lettuce or spinach, where you can just make a powder, put that powder in a capsule and the capsule can be stored like in medical stores or anywhere from where the people can easily buy at a very cheap or very affordable price.”

News about tobacco-grown artemisinin was published in the Cell press journal Molecular Plant.

Kumar says no big tobacco companies have come forward volunteering to produce artemisinin. However, he is hopeful, given that the technology will be made freely available, that there will be some takers. (VOA)

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  • Ruchika Kumari

    Interesting, Finally Tobacco plants are going to do something good for people.

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)