The practice of responsible scientific literacy and restraint in passing the good news about Quinine

1820- 2020 Quinine has its big day. Named for potential investigation as cure for COVID19

My worry is this. Quinine is an important drug in the treatment of Lupus, a long-term autoimmune disease. Similarly malaria is a very serious disease that with a global death rate of almost half a million people annually. Almost 60% of who are children. In my neck of the woods, everyone knows someone who has had malaria, if they haven’t done so themselves, multiple times. The Plasmodium quickly develops resistance and changes, the drug makers are always playing catch up to the pathogen. (Sometimes plant concoctions work just as well, but the bells and whistles change). In cases of un-complicated malaria, first trimester pregnancies, and in traditional 'miti-shamba', herbal  concoctions, Quinine is still important.

Typically, only countries with malaria have and use the latest drugs for treatment, the others have preventative levels. A few years ago, I travelled to Kenya with an American Friend who had taken antimalarials from the US.  She still got seriously sick, the Kenyan doctor in Kuria where we were asked to see what preventative meds she had taken. It was something that Kenyan medics had stopped using 5 years ago!!

Now people will read into this recent announcement, that ‘Quinine’ is a cure for Corona (as my mother calls it, she also adds Hannah giri gi,(Luo) in the list of vulnerable ones, she is 85 - With a sense of humor to match. It’s her way of noting that she is Wanjiku (common man) and should look out for herself and family as best she can.

If we will buy these drugs with the same passion and diligence, we bought toilet paper. The people/countries that have the highest potential and resources to buy this are usually not in predominantly malaria prone areas.

An un-expected impact of Corona could very well be death by diseases quinine is important for treating, because of the hoarding that could happen. Leading to scarcity and inaccessibility by those who need it the most. Several have rightly pointed out to me that in the US you cannot get it without a prescription, but online from external sources they are available. The sudden demand could drive up the prices. If it was a cure already, all the countries that have walked this turbulent road before us, would be on it, en- masse. A second potential problem is chloroquine poisoning, as it is reports are already trickling in from countries where use as an over the counter antimalarial prevention is acceptable. There is potential but this is not yet in the form of the silver bullet we so desire. Please proceed with caution before sending off for a quinine stock to stash.  My two cents!!


Plant science fun fact. Quinine first extracted from the Cinchona tree in 1820

200 years ago.

Antimalarial plants, more than Cinchona eg Mwarubaini / Neem tree Azaridacta indica, Artemisia annua, etc


Mallowa Sally

@smallowa  twitter