A Ghanaian researcher on a mission to kill malaria through the healing power of plants
For example, he conducted the first scientific investigation of a shrub in the buckthorn family known as saa-wawa, widely used in West Africa as a cure-all for everything from cuts and burns to snake bites and jaundice. The study isolated a number of compounds that are responsible for the plant’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
This research provides a benchmark to assess the quality of herbal medicines that are extracted from the plants.
“These medicines are important for the people of Ghana, where we are struggling to provide healthcare for all.”
– Prof Edmund Ekuadzi, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana.
TRANSFORMING THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE
But there is also the tantalising prospect that one day he may discover a compound that is new to science and capable of transforming the practice of medicine.
Such a breakthrough occurred in the 1970s, when researchers studied a plant that for thousands of years had been known to Chinese herbalists for its antimalarial properties. Artemisinin now forms the basis of combination therapies such as Coartem from Novartis, which are the first-line treatment for malaria worldwide.
Mr. Ekuadzi received support from Novartis when he completed an internship in 2012 through the company’s Next Generation Scientist Program. It is designed to develop the scientific and medical capabilities of postgraduate students and physicians from emerging countries, providing skills that will benefit them and their communities when they return home.
He now applies these skills at the university in Ghana where he teaches pharmacognosy and works as assistant laboratory manager, while continuing to analyse the native plants that have been used to treat people in Ghana for generations and that may one day benefit patients much farther afield.
Novartis Malaria Initiative
Focused on access, treatment, R&D and capacity building, the Novartis Malaria Initiative is one of the healthcare industry’s largest access-to-medicine programs.
Pictures & story courtesy Novartis