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Amazonian plants from Peru used by Quechua and Mestizo to treat malaria with evaluation of their activity

Malaria remains one of the most important infectious diseases in the world affecting hundreds of millions of people and causing up to 3 million deaths annually (mostly children). Difficulties in getting access to treatment, for both economic and geographical reasons, result in increased mortality. Besides this fact, in many cases, drug effectiveness is lost due to parasite resistance. In this context, safe, effective and accessible new treatments have become a matter of priority. Plant remedies seem to be the most convenient solution because of their accessibility and diversity in tropical regions. This study focused on the province of Loreto, which is classified by the WHO as a grade III zone for its high frequency of chloroquine resistant malaria. An ethnopharmacological study was performed in three locations regarding three groups of population: Quechua of the Pastaza, Quechua of the Napo, and the Mestizo population living around Iquitos. These specific groups were chosen firstly, according to their ability to use medicinal plants and to transmit the knowledge.

The Pastaza and Napo populations belong to the same cultural group (Quechua) and share a very similar set of medicinal knowledge, although they live in separate territories and ecosystems (see map). The Pastaza populations are also geographically isolated from medical infrastructures which reinforces the necessity for a better transmission of medicinal knowledge. Secondly, the comparison with Mestizo medicinal knowledge offers valuable insights into the persistence of traditional knowledge in a context where access to Occidental remedies is easier, given the proximity with urban medical centers. The core of ethnographic data about the indigenous conception of illnesses and therapy gives an anthropological background to the analysis of the impact of malaria among these Amazonian groups. We underline the necessity of taking into account the context-dependence of native aetiological theories.