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October 2021

Trop Doct. 1997 ; 27 Suppl 1(): 20-5.

Malaria and antimalarial plants in Roraima, Brazil.

Milliken W.

Centre for Economic Botany, Royal-Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, UK.

One of the numerous problems created by the gold rush which took place in northern Brazil (Roraima State) at the end of the 1980s was a severe epidemic of malaria amongst the indigenous peoples of the region. Worst hit were the Yanomami Indians, who had lived in almost total isolation prior to this event. The problem has been exacerbated by the development of chloroquine-resistant strains of Plasmodium falciparum. In an effort to identify viable alternatives to dependence on western medicine for malaria treatment, a survey was carried out on the local plant species (wild and cultivated) used for this purpose in Roraima. Fieldwork was carried out amongst seven indigenous peoples, as well as with the non-indigenous settlers. Over 90 species were collected, many of which have been cited as used for treatment of malaria and fevers elsewhere. Knowledge of antimalarial plants was found to vary greatly between the communities, and in some cases there was evidence of recent experimentation. Initial screening of plant extracts has shown a high incidence of significant antimalarial activity amongst the species collected.

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