The Artemisia Covid 19 Initiative – June 2020 update

Like they say ‘ the proof is in the pudding’. In this case, will the in vitro tests yield any useful results? Useful in this sense simply means a clear positive or negative result (keeping in mind the much dreaded false positives and false negatives). So I’ve send some samples over to the Max Planck Institute in Germany to test against SARS-CoV-2. At the moment the samples are somewhere in Dubai, so it finally cleared our customs in Johannesburg. The next potential hurdle might be the German customs, but hopefully it will reach its destination early next week. Here is the DHL tracking number for those interested to see where it is and when it arrives: 3544019883. (Interestingly, I found myself tracking this parcel as if being jealous about getting on a plane and being able to go places – this lock down is having a strange effect on people!)

But anyhow, I am currently fractionating (splitting up) extracts of Artemisia annua and A. afra, which is a bit of a time consuming process. The splitting up is quite quick, it is the liquid handling eg. drying, that is taking a lot of time (Fig 1). Usually one would wait for the in vitro test results but we simply don’t have the time (If it turns out to be inactive, I will focus on finding the antimalarial compound in A. afra – so the fractions will be useful to have either way).

semi-prep HPLC
Fig. 1. Semi-prep system that we use to fractionate extracts.

I’ve also noticed that the University of Western Cape has recently set up an in vitro test system, so I will definitely have to contact them – it is always good to confirm results (positve and negative) with independent research groups. So for me, next week will be in the lab doing good old chemistry, and stressing myself to bits about the in vitro tests.

If for some reason anyone out there happen to have a good second-hand semi-prep RP column (min diameter 10mm) and don’t have any use for it, please contact me ( – the column I’m currently using is near its end. And please have a look at our Crowd Funding website and circulate via your networks if you feel like it. And of course, thank you for those who have donated thus far!


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