Mao and medicine: Was the chairman a malaria fighter?

With China's attempts to create and win approval for new global vaccines and medications, it might be worth remembering: they've done it before, successfully.

Monday's edition of The New York Times tells the fascinating tale of how under Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, China developed one of the world's first widely used and successful anti-malaria drugs.

The Times goes through the long and interesting history of artemisnin, an anti-malarial developed for China's Communist forces during the Vietnam War.

As American scientists scrambled to create Larium, still widely used today, Mao's team of medical researchers worked under much tougher conditions — the chairman's own Cultural Revolution, a national turmoil that threw science and reason to the wind.

And still, they managed to come up with a drug that actually worked, in part using a traditional Chinese herb known to fight malaria outbreaks in China.

Given the development under those conditions, it's probably not a good idea to scoff at China's continuing drive toward modern medical advances.

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