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The role of haem iron (II) and oxidative stress in the activation and antimalarial activity of artemisinin is unclear. Thus, we submitted malaria parasite to modified culture conditions: artemisinin activity increased by 20-30% under an oxygen-rich atmosphere (20% O2 instead of "standard" 1% O2), and by 40-50% in the presence of carboxy-haemoglobin, and 2% carbon monoxide, conditions which inhibit haem iron (II) reactivity. In all cases, parasite growth and chloroquine activity were unaffected. We conclude that in the malaria parasite artemisinin is not activated by haem iron and that free radicals are not needed for its toxicity.

Original publication




Journal article


FEBS letters

Publication Date





91 - 94


Istituto di Microbiologia, Universita' di Milano, Via Pascal 36, 20133 Milan, Italy.


Erythrocytes, Animals, Humans, Plasmodium falciparum, Malaria, Carbon Monoxide, Oxygen, Iron, Sesquiterpenes, Artemisinins, Heme, Chloroquine, Hemoglobins, Antimalarials, Oxidation-Reduction, Oxidative Stress