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Use of Quinine:
Before the development in recent years of more effective synthetic drugs such as chloroquine, quinine was the specific agent in the treatment of malaria. Malaria is caused by a parasite plasmodium vivax, which is carried by mosquitoes in tropical climates. It causes severe fevers that go through cycles of 2 to 3 days, passing through hot (up to 107F) and cold phases.
These alkaloids are effective in combating malaria because they are able to bind strongly to blood proteins, and form complexes, which are toxic to the malarial parasite. They are also antipyretic so permit the patients to pass through the critical stages of lethal body temperature.
In recent years, however, certain strains of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum have developed a resistance to chloroquine, so quinine is again becoming the preferred anti-malarial drug in certain areas of the world.
This has been reinforced by the first stereoselective "total synthesis" of Quinine by Gabriel Stork and co-workers at Columbia University just last year (Philip Ball; April 13th 2001; http://www.nature.com/nsu)
Joe Lenthall, Magdelan college oxford: http://www.chem.ox.ac.uk/mom/quinine/Quinine.htm#