Shrinking the Malaria Map

UCSF Global Health Group’s Malaria Elimination Initiative (MEI)

Nobel Prize awarded to Chinese scientist for discovering artemisinin

13 October 2015

On October 5, Tu Youyou won a Nobel Prize in the sciences for her discovery of artemisinin and its use in the treatment of malaria. Dr. Youyou, 84, became the first citizen of the People's Republic of China to win a Nobel Prize. At the time of her discovery during China's Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, she was a little-known scientist who used her training in both Chinese and Western medicine to explore potential treatments for malaria. She found that artemisinin rapidly reduced the number of Plasmodium parasites in the blood of malaria patients. Today, artemisinin is a standard component of malaria treatments, and artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are recommended by WHO as the first-line treatment for uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria. While Dr. Youyou's work has undoubtedly saved millions of lives around the world, artemisinin resistance has recently been confirmed in five countries of the Greater Mekong subregion. This reality highlights the need to accelerate efforts to eliminate malaria and to increase investment in research and development of new medicines and tools to combat malaria as we push forward on the elimination pathway toward global eradication.