YORK, England, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Genetic mapping of the plant Artemisia annua will speed breeding of the herb for urgently needed malaria treatments, scientists in Britain said.
Plant scientists at the University of York have published the first genetic map of the plant and will use it to accelerate production of high-yield crops, said Ian Graham, who heads the university's Center for Novel Agricultural Products.
Malaria kills an estimated 1 million people a year worldwide and the most effective treatments are Artemisinin Combination Therapies, the demand for which is expected to double by 2012 to about 200 million treatments a year, Graham said this month in the journal Science.
In recent years, artemisia production has declined because farmers made too little profit from existing plants species, Graham said, adding the decline in production has raised fears of shortages.
Knowing the plant's genome will enable scientists to breed for high-performance and speed growth of the crop, he said.