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The archives of Flora Medicinal, an ancient pharmaceutical laboratory that supported ethnomedical …

Biology Articles » Ethnobiology » Plants used traditionally to treat malaria in Brazil: the archives of Flora Medicinal » Background

- Plants used traditionally to treat malaria in Brazil: the archives of Flora Medicinal

Flora Medicinal is an ancient and small pharmaceutical laboratory established, in early 1915, by Mr. José Monteiro da Silva, a Medical Doctor in Rio de Janeiro. Mr. Monteiro da Silva was an idealist who believed that the Brazilian rainforest had an enormous potential for research and discovery of new drugs. For more than 40 years Mr. Monteiro da Silva had organized a group of technicians and scientists who made a great number of excursions into Brazilian rainforest, collecting plant specimens and information. Although he had also edited the Revista da Flora Medicinal, a scientific paper in which he described his discoveries, a considerable part of his research remains unpublished. During the '30 s and '40 s, the Revista da Flora Medicinal was translated to French and republished by the Institut Pasteur, in Paris, which allowed some of his findings to be used by the international pharmaceutical industry. During his activities, Mr. Monteiro da Silva and his team described more than 200 new medicinal plants from this region. One of his targets was the study of new antimalarial plants, as at his time malaria was a concerning health problem in Brazil. In the following years, quinine, its derivatives and other drugs helped to control malaria. Nowadays, however, its incidence is again growing worldwide, and Plasmodium falciparum is getting more resistant to the usual antimalarial drugs[1]. It is estimated that 62% of P. falciparum around the world presents with mono or multiresistant drug profile[1]. The World Health Organization estimates that there are between 300 and 500 million new cases of malaria worldwide, every year, mostly in Africa, Asia, South Pacific Islands and South America, which causes, at least, 3 million deaths[2,3]. The main drugs developed for malaria and used up to now (quina alkaloids derived drugs and artemisinin) were discovered based on traditional use and ethnomedical data[4,5]. New efforts to search for novel drugs for treating malaria are very important in countries like Brazil, where many endemic areas still exist[6]. The study of well-documented data such as the archives of Flora Medicinal can point out traditional and probably effective treatments that had not been yet subjected to testing.

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